SALT LAKE CITY — The owner of a dog shot and killed by a Salt Lake police officer this summer intends to sue the department and the city for $1.5 million.
In a 14-page notice of claim delivered to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sean Kendall alleges officers violated his constitutional rights by entering the backyard of his Sugar House home without permission as they searched for a missing toddler, ultimately shooting his 2-year-old Weimaraner, Geist.
The 3-year-old was later found asleep in the family's home.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Kendall's lawyer in the lawsuit, called the search and shooting an "egregious violation" of the Fourth Amendment. The goal of the lawsuit, in addition to compensation in the dog's death, is to prompt policies and training for officers nationwide that will prevent future pet deaths.
"As a community, if this officer isn't held accountable, nobody is safe," Anderson said. "We're seeing a spate of killings by police officers, brutality by police officers around the country, and certainly a small minority are engaging in this, but also the killing of companion animals."
Negotiations between Kendall and the department broke down in July when Kendall accepted and then rejected a settlement.
As a community, if this officer isn't held accountable, nobody is safe.
The June 18 shooting drew a huge public response and online following criticizing Salt Lake detective Brett Olson, one of the decorated heroes who brought the Trolley Square shooting spree to an end in 2007, for entering the yard without permission or a warrant, and for shooting the dog as it ran toward him and barked.
In turn, Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank decried the abuse and threats directed toward his officers in the days after Geist was killed. In August, a civilian review board cleared Olson of any policy violation in his use of force and in entering Kendall's property.
During his time as mayor, Anderson appointed Burbank to the rank of chief, a fact not lost on him as he proceeds with the case.
"This is certainly not a personal thing. I think the world of Police Chief Burbank. I just think in this instance he was dead wrong, and he handled it very poorly," Anderson said.
A spokesman for Salt Lake City confirmed the notice of claim had been received but declined further comment according to city policy. The Salt Lake City Police Department also declined to comment.
For more information, visit JusticeForGeist.org.