Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Federal judge throws out Jonathan Whitworth's lawsuit against SWAT team that killed his pit bull

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 11:46 AM

If you've seen the YouTube video above of the February 2010 raid of a home in Columbia, Missouri, the images are likely burned in your brain. Columbia police raided Jonathan Whitworth's home looking for drugs. In the process, members of a SWAT team shot and killed his pit bull and wounded his corgi-pit bull mix. Officers rounded up his wife and 7-year-old son, and they were held for a time just a few feet from the dead dog as Whitworth was handcuffed.

Whitworth and his family sued the city of Columbia along with 12 police officers, claiming his family's constitutional rights were violated. However, a federal judge has dismissed the case.

The Whitworths’ attorney, Jeff Hilbrenner, told the Columbia Daily Tribune: “We always knew this was a tough case, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from tough cases. The conduct of Columbia police was so extreme, we thought it needed to be reviewed by a court. The Whitworths will evaluate whether they want to appeal the judge’s ruling.”

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey didn't see any problem with the way officers conducted the raid. That's interesting since Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton admitted at a news conference that "we did some things wrong," and his department changed policies on how SWAT raids are conducted.

On February 11, 2010, a Columbia SWAT team busted down Whitworth's door because they believed Whitworth was a "major marijuana distributor." But this raid totally whiffed, turning up just a small amount of weed, a pipe and a grinder.

The civil suit sought restitution for damage to Whitworth's home, vet expenses for the wounded dog and medical expenses. His family needed counseling after the raid. Watch the video and you can see why.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that the judge's order answered more questions about the raid. The newspaper reported that Brittany Whitworth and her son were escorted outside of their home after asking to be moved out of view of the dead dog. Officers also brought them blankets and shoes as they waited in a patrol car for the next couple of hours. Officers also moved the car so the child wouldn't see the dog's remains taken from the home. They also let Brittany Whitworth clean up the dog’s blood and agreed to tell her son that “Nala was alive and being taken to be a police dog.”

That poor kid.

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