Family files lawsuit in police shooting of dog

By Brittney Nadler

A lawsuit was filed on Nov. 8 against the City of Champaign and Champaign Police Officer Andre Davis for a case that occurred on Nov. 17, 2012 in which Davis allegedly fatally shot a Champaign family’s almost 6-year-old dog.

The dog was a Chocolate Labrador named Dog, owned by Applied Health Sciences office manager Kathy Saathoff and her family.

Saathoff’s daughter, 19-year-old Kelsey Markou, was walking Dog at John Street and Crescent Drive in Champaign when a gray and white pit bull, sitting unleashed and alone in a nearby apartment parking lot, attacked Dog, Saathoff said.  

Davis arrived on the scene after an onlooker dialed 9-1-1 and Markou provided a description of her dog — yet the officer allegedly fired at her Labrador. He shot twice and the second shot hit Dog’s neck, fatally wounding him, Markou said.

“When he shot once, I didn’t really say anything throughout the whole time because I automatically assumed that he knew which one was mine because I described it to him before he started shooting,” Markou said.

The pit bull then ran toward nearby apartments on the other side of the street and Davis continued to fire multiple shots, one of which went through the window of a nearby building, Saathoff said.

“What part doesn’t make sense is our daughter just told him our dog is the family pet and not the aggressive dog … so even though our daughter just told him he’s the pet, he decided to start shooting at our dog,” Saathoff said.

A witness at the scene told Davis to call an ambulance, but he refused, saying it wouldn’t show up for a dog, Markou said.

“I left to go get my parents and then by the time we came back there were multiple cop cars,” Markou said. “He was dead when we got back.”

Saathoff said in an email that former Champaign city manager Steve Carter directed them to city risk manager Larry Krause to compensate for their loss in the middle of January, but never heard back from him.

Dog was a specially trained hunting dog that the family “invested at least $30,000 for professional training, as a hunting dog, and Dog had reached the “Master” level of bird-dog proficiency,” according to the complaint filed through federal court.

“We have another dog — she’s three now, so we had her when we had him — and so it’s kind of weird just having one dog now,” Markou said.

According to a Firearms Discharge Internal Review completed by the Champaign Police Department, chief of police Anthony Cobb reviewed the findings and recommendations of the Professional Standards Investigation and Firearms Discharge Review Board to look at possible disciplinary action and policy changes. 

“Why he even decided to pull his weapon — he could have let them fight and … both of those dogs would have survived,” Saathoff said.

Rene Dunn, spokeswoman for the Champaign Police Department, said it would be improper for the department to comment at this time due to pending legal action.

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]