Family hires attorney after police shoot dog

Published: Jul. 18, 2011 at 5:10 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:17 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A Lubbock family has now hired an attorney after a police officer shot their dog while responding to their home being invaded last week.

John Espinoza, the owner of the house on the 6400 block of 33rd Street, said he left his garage open while he and his family were at home. He says intruders armed with large guns entered his home through the garage and asked for his wallet and his wife's purse. Espinoza refused to surrender the items, he said. Unarmed, he chased the assailants through the backyard to the next street, he said.

"At the time I didn't care if they shot me, I wasn't going to stop," said Espinoza, "The reason why they didn't take anything is they came in and I put up a fight. I got out and it's one o'clock in the afternoon. I'm yelling and kicking the gate."

That's when Payton, the family's Saint Bernard got out, Espinoza said.

Espinoza's wife called the police and officers responded to the home invasion call. The family is thankful they are safe, but it's the actions of the police that have them considering a lawsuit.

Police say when officers approached the house, the dog ran aggressively at them out of the open garage. Police shot the dog in the front yard. Espinoza says the officer shot Payton in front of his wife and two daughters.

"The officer just shot him in the head and she said when he shot him, she just saw his head rock and dust everywhere and he just fell down," said Espinoza.

He says police refused to let them have the body and instead called the pound for removal and disposal. Espinoza says their family dog was kind and gentle.

"It was excessive use of force, he didn't have to shoot the dog like that in the head. I feel like they have batons or bean bags," said Espinoza.

Police say it is procedure for an officer to use deadly force to defend themselves if an animal puts them in danger.

"If he walked up to the officer, he might have walked up to him to greet him, but I can guarantee he didn't go up there growling or barking," said Espinoza. "There were people that saw and they say the dog wasn't doing anything, he wouldn't hurt a fly."

They also say it is procedure to call animal services to pick up the animal. Police say this is not the first aggressive dog that's been shot by police.

Espinoza says his family will miss their best friend.

"My kids have just been crying, they have pictures of the dog Payton because they were attached to him," said Espinoza.

Espinoza's lawyer, David Guinn says they plan to pursue a claim for property damage if the law allows. If not, they simply want an apology.

Meanwhile, police say they are still looking for one black male and an off-white Mitsubishi. They say there could possibly be more suspects as well. If you have any information about the home invasion call Crime Line at 806-741-1000.

Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.