A Spokane County, Washington family filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month after a deputy allegedly trespassed on their property and fatally shot their dog. Animal law attorney Adam Karp told Seattle Pets Examiner today that the Beck family has filed a federal lawsuit in relation to the tragic and fatal events of Aug. 27, 2014, when the Becks’ dog, Cash, was gunned down at his own home.
Bradley Jay Beck, Jr.; Bradley Jay Beck, Sr.; and Nikki Lynn Beck filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington against then-Deputy Ryan Smith and then-Sergeant Douglas Lawson, of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. On Aug. 27, 2014, Deputy Smith allegedly went to the Becks’ home to return a hat and keys to the Beck family. Upon arrival at the residence on E. Sprague Avenue, Smith saw that the property was fully fenced and had several “Beware of Dog” signs posted, with one sign attached to the gate.
According to the lawsuit, while he was still on the street side of the fence, Smith observed the family’s two dogs, including Cash, an eight-year-old mixed breed dog. The dogs were barking loudly. Smith honked the air horn of his patrol car to get the attention of any residents, but when no one responded, he allegedly broke and entered onto the Becks’ premises through their closed, motorized gate.
With his weapon drawn, Deputy Smith approached their home. No one was home, other than the Becks’ dogs. When Cash saw this stranger within feet of his house, the dog tried to protect his home from the intruder. In response, Deputy Smith struck Cash with his extended metal baton and then shot the dog three times with a firearm.
Despite being seriously wounded, Cash did not die instantly – but he was unable to receive emergency veterinary care. Sergeant Lawson refused to allow Bradley Beck, Sr. take the wounded dog to a nearby clinic because he did not want to “lose the opportunity to do what was necessary with the dog to check for rabies.”
Cash was current with his vaccinations. A life-saving veterinary intervention would not have inhibited such testing. Cash had retreated inside the home after he was shot. A Spokane County Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) officer was finally allowed into the home to help Cash, but the dog succumbed to his injuries.
According to Adam Karp, the County has taken the public position that Deputy Smith was not trespassing. But according to WPIC 65.02, “A person who enters or remains upon unimproved and apparently unused land, that is neither fenced nor otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders, does so with license and privilege unless notice against trespass is personally communicated to him or her by the owner of the land or some other authorized person, or unless notice is given by posting in a conspicuous manner.”
The Beck family was traumatized by the sudden and violent loss of their dog. After the shooting, Bradley, Sr. experienced chest pain, high blood pressure, dizziness, and vomiting. He was sent to Valley Hospital for an emergency assessment, radiographs, and a blood draw. He was discharged the following morning.
According to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Smith was acting lawfully at the time of Cash’s death. The day after the shooting, KXLY reported that Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich defended Deputy Smith’s actions, stating that Smith “would have to live with the fact that he killed someone’s pet.”
On Sept. 11, 2014, Dr. Alisha Massa of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine performed a gross necropsy of Cash. This necropsy confirmed that Cash died from ballistic trauma after he was shot three times, once completely through the abdomen and thorax, once completely through the left thigh, and once through the abdomen and into the right thoracic wall. This third bullet lodged against his ribs.
“Cash’s avoidable death, commencing with a deputy’s forced invasion onto the Becks’ premises, and ending with an outrageously callous and misinformed order by a supervising officer that left Cash bleeding in agony, cries out for vindication,” Karp stated today.
One year after losing their beloved family member, the Becks hope to have justice for his death. Karp added: “The Becks have faith that the federal civil justice system will right these alleged wrongs, and punish those who so flagrantly violated their civil and property rights by trespassing and killing their family member. I pray that this tragedy will spur the law enforcement community to deliberate and focus before making such heedless decisions that unnecessarily destroy civilian and canine lives.”
This case has been assigned to Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. Updates to this story will be posted as they occur.