Four Roommates Sue Maryland Police Department, Alleging Officers Entered Home Without Warrant Before Shooting Dog

The lawsuit alleges that Prince George’s County police officers shot the dog after it tried running into another room, leaving it paralyzed and forcing its owners to euthanize it.

Four roommates have filed a lawsuit against a Maryland police department, alleging that Prince George’s County officers entered their apartment without a warrant, shooting their dog and leaving it paralyzed.

According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Maryland. The complaint lists four plaintiffs, identified as Erica Umana, Erika Erazo Sanchez, Dayri Amaya Benitez, and Brandon Cuevas. They are represented by attorneys William Murphy and Malcolm Ruff, as well as representatives from the NAACP Maryland State Conference, the Coalition of Concerned Mothers of Prince Georg’s County, CASA, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Attorneys for the four plaintiffs claim that the dog shooting case is yet another example of Prince George’s County police officers using unreasonable and unnecessary force.

“This lawsuit is yet another tragically foreseeable outcome of a failed and biased system of policing in Prince George’s County, to which County leadership has continually turned a blind eye,” the lawsuit alleges.

In a press conference detailing the complaint, the four roommates said that they had been “irreparably damaged” by the incident, with several of the plaintiffs suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms.

Ruff said that there is no conceivable reason for Prince George’s officers to have employed such brutal force against his clients and their pet dog.

“There is no reason under the sun they should have been treated the way the county police treated them,” Ruff said.

Police cars of the Los Angeles County Sheriff: image by James (Flickr: Old and new police cars), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, no changes.

The Washington Post reports that the lawsuit was filed in relation to a June 2021 incident at the roommates’ apartment complex in Landover Hills, Maryland.

Police had been called to the complex to investigate a reported dog bite. After arriving on-site, officers retrieved a key from a maintenance worker, then entered the roommates’ apartment without a warrant. Inside, they unholstered their weapons, pointing service pistols and tasers at the plaintiffs.

After the dog—a 6-year-old boxer mix named Hennessy—ran out of the room, two officers fired on the dog, while another purportedly used their taser.

“It was a nightmare,” Sanchez said. “I held Henney’s body—bloody body—while she was dying in [my] arms, while the rest of her family was wrongfully detained and denied the ability to check on her.”

Although Hennessy survived the shooting, she was paralyzed by her injuries and had to be euthanized later the same night.

Attorneys for the roommates say they hope the lawsuit can effect change in the department.

“It is a fundamental, basic civil right, right? This is not anything complex. This is the basics. This is, like, the text of the Fourth Amendment—the warrants must be obtained, or you cannot go in,” Ruff said. “That is it. If there’s no exception, you are in violation of the Constitution, and that is exactly what these officers did.”

However, perhaps not very surprisingly, the Prince George’s County State Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against any of the involved officers.

“After reviewing all of the evidence in this matter, a determination was made that actions of the officers didn’t generate criminal liability,” the office said in a statement. “The Prince George’s County Police Department was notified that our office declined to prosecute this matter.”


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