The County of St. Louis settled the trial for $750,000, which seems like an awful lot of money for a dead dog. But the underlying reason, coupled with the violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of the dog’s owners, was more than sufficient to compel a settlement.
“Why is this cop able to call in a SWAT team because I didn’t have gas service at my house?” said Zorich.
She recalls SWAT members kicking in her front door, before firing at her pit bull.
“They put me and my son on our knees to watch her die. The officer squatted over her while she was dying with the search warrant, and he said, ‘You know why we’re here?’ and I said, ‘No I don’t know.’ When he said, ‘We’re here because your gas is off.’ I lost it,” Zorich said.
They were ratted out by the neighbors, who called the cops to alert them that someone had no gas. Why they cared is a mystery, but apparently they did, and enough so to seek action against Angela Zorich for her “neglected property.”
So the SWAT team swung into action.
Dobson says the lead officer fabricated a story to a judge and fellow SWAT members, leading them to believe Zorich’s sons were highly violent, to get the no-knock warrant issued.
Dobson says that warrant was executed just two hours after it was signed.
“No evidence was going to be destroyed, you’re not going to flush the gas meter down the toilet,” said Dobson.
Of course there was no risk of loss of evidence. Even if Zorich’s sons were “highly violent,” so what? Did they strike such fear in the hearts of brave police officers that a few knocking on the door would have been put at such risk that SWAT was needed? But then, it wasn’t true, but just the pretense used to get the no-knock warrant. Remember, if they say so, what judge wouldn’t bob his head and sign off, because cops would never lie and no judge wants to be responsible should something go awry and a cop get hurt.
The scenario is so ridiculous that it bears little discussion as to why all of this was gross overkill and utterly without justification. But that doesn’t explain one thing: Why did the cops choose to call in the SWAT team over an unpaid gas bill?
Were they bored? Had there been no SWAT raids, and they were getting rusty in their “dynamic entry” skills? Did they have all the really cool SWAT clothing and weapons and feel compelled to use them at any opportunity?
Police officers are well aware of what can come of a SWAT raid, particularly when coupled with a no-knock warrant. They know that some people have guns in a house, lawful guns, and when the door gets broken down, they could use them. It puts the cops at risk as well. Why would they want to lose a brother to a homeowner without a clue why anyone would be breaking down their door?
And then there’s the dog. Cops love theirs. Cops do not love yours, because yours aren’t theirs. So they shoot. In the back, because the dog could always turn around and bite their nose off. You never know, so better to kill first and make up excuses later. But cops are also people off the job, and like most people, are aware of the feelings people have toward pets. How do they appreciate normal folks loving their pets when out of uniform, but shoot at will when they’re on the job?
Finally, there are the folks living in the house, whose offense is neglect of their own property which pisses off the neighbors because it makes the neighborhood look shabby. When executing a SWAT raid, things happen. Bad things. People on the good guy curve react poorly to the shock and awe, and aren’t always as compliant as the cops would prefer. Would they beat them for it? Would they shoot them for it? Would they kill them for it? For having no gas to the house, or pissing off the neighbors?
Why would the SWAT guys want to put on their paramilitary jumpsuits and do this to people? They can change the patrol guide, the cop rules, the threat level definitions, but does any of that bear upon the point that these SWAT cops know what they’re about to do, what the consequences might be, and still decided it was a really good idea to do it. Over an unpaid gas bill.