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Man sues Nye County police after deputy fatally shot dog in 2017

Updated April 18, 2019 - 5:27 pm

A Pahrump man is suing the Nye County Sheriff’s Office after a deputy responding to a home security alarm shot and killed his dog in 2017.

Deputy John Tolle was dispatched April 17, 2017, to Gary Miller’s home on the 2700 block of Our Road in Pahrump after Miller accidentally sat on the panic button for his home security system, according to the lawsuit filed April 9.

Though Miller spoke to the alarm company and canceled the alert, Tolle arrived at Miller’s property and entered through a front gate. Miller’s 6-year-old pit bull mix, Blu, barked and ran toward Tolle as he walked onto the property, the lawsuit states.

According to the complaint, Tolle was heard saying, “Oh, don’t do it, doggy. Don’t do it, doggy. Stop it,” as Blu ran toward him. Blu was about 10 feet away when Tolle fired four times, striking the dog once in the head.

The suit alleges Tolle violated Miller’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by unreasonably seizing or destroying the dog, Miller’s property.

“Unlike the brazen actions by law enforcement in this case, you have to act reasonably in search and seizures,” said Miller’s co-counsel, Maggie McLetchie.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said it does not comment on pending litigation.

In 2005, the 9th Circuit Court Court of Appeals ruled that dogs, while considered property, are different from other property because of their owners’ emotional attachments, said McLetchie, who has represented the Las Vegas Review-Journal in litigation in the past.

She said Fourth Amendment cases depend on the nature and severity of the intrusion caused by an unreasonable search or seizure.

“A killing of a dog is a really severe intrusion,” she said. “It’s obviously normal for a dog to bark, big or small, when someone comes on the property. It’s not a sufficient reason to use lethal force.”

Body camera footage captured Tolle laughing about the dog’s death with a Nye County detective and sergeant, the suit states.

“You can see they were really reckless about this dog’s life and the feelings of his owner,” McLetchie said.

The suit also alleges that Nye County Animal Control, which took Blu to a shelter for treatment, took possession of the dog’s body and cremated it without Miller’s permission. Miller does not believe the ashes that were returned to him belong to Blu.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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