Pubdate: Tue, 22 Nov 2011
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2011 Columbia Missourian
Author: Celia Darrough


COLUMBIA - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Monday filed against
the city of Columbia and 12 police officers involved in a February
2010 SWAT raid in which two dogs were shot, one fatally.

Jonathan Whitworth was arrested during the raid on the house he shared
with his wife and child in the 1500 block of Kinloch Court in
southwest Columbia and later pleaded guilty to unlawful use of drug
paraphernalia. His child, who was 7 at the time, was present during
the raid. MoreStory

Whitworth, his wife, Brittany Whitworth, and son were named as
plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit in September 2010; they sought
compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, along with
court costs and attorney fees.

At that time, Whitworth's attorney, Milt Harper, said the injured dog
had to receive emergency treatment, which cost $2,000.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey said the
allegations made in the suit were not supported by evidence. The
allegations included that: 

 * SWAT officers "chased and pursued" one of the dogs;
 * Officers yelled at Brittany Whitworth and the child;
 * Officers unreasonably seized and detained Brittany Whitworth and the child;
 * The amount of force used in seizing them rendered the seizure unreasonable;

 * An officer used excessive force in kicking Jonathan Whitworth in 
the head and neck;

 * SWAT officers unreasonably seized property in violation of the 
Fourth Amendment by shooting the dogs and leaving bullet holes in the house;

 * The city violated the Whitworths' constitutional rights "by 
maintaining customs and policies exhibiting deliberate indifference to 
its citizens rights and by failing to properly train and supervise the 
defendants, who are (the city's) employees."

In her order, Laughrey wrote that although some arguments were
persuasive, the evidence didn't support the allegations. The order
granted summary judgment in favor of the officers and the city,
meaning a decision was made based on evidence and statements without a
full trial.

In the order, Laughrey said that even if the officers violated the
Whitworths' rights in shooting the dogs, the Whitworths did not show
that that was a clearly established right. She also said the officer's
kicking of Whitworth was legitimate in making him comply with a police

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said dismissal of the lawsuit was

"I just feel that it's an excellent outcome," he said. "I do not feel
that the officers did anything that warranted a lawsuit, and obviously
the judge agreed."

The Whitworths' attorney, Jeff Hilbrenner, would not give his opinion
on the lawsuit's dismissal but said the Whitworths are still deciding
on whether to appeal the ruling.

"This case and the aftermath have been a burden on the family," he
said. "They are deciding what the next appropriate step for them is."
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