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North Las Vegas police face new civil rights lawsuit over shooting of a dog

North Las Vegas police are facing another civil rights lawsuit over the fatal shooting of a dog.

Henderson resident Edward Wheeler sued the department Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. The lawsuit claims an officer shot his 2-year-old pit bull, Miracle, in the head in 2013 while serving a search warrant at a neighbor’s house.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents Wheeler, said she’s heard many stories about police officers shooting dogs, but that “This one is even more shocking because they shot a dog next door to where they were trying to a serve a warrant.”

Claudia Aguayo, a North Las Vegas senior deputy city attorney, declined comment on the lawsuit because she had not yet reviewed it.

Earlier this year, the city paid $25,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit involving officers who fatally shot two dogs while serving a search warrant in 2008.

Wheeler’s complaint calls the killing of Miracle an unreasonable seizure of his property.

North Las Vegas police engage in a “policy and practice of deliberate indifference to the constitutional right of individuals who reside in or adjacent to locations upon which search warrants are executed to be free from the unreasonable seizure” of their pet dogs, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, Wheeler does not know which officer shot his dog. According to the document, the Henderson regularly employs the North Las Vegas police SWAT team to execute search warrants. The Henderson department also is named as a defendant in Wheeler’s case.

Henderson city spokeswoman Michelle French declined to comment.

According to the complaint, police executed a search warrant around 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2013, at 219 Mojave Lane in Henderson. Wheeler lives next door at 221 Mojave Lane. Four people remained in the home at 219 Mojave during the search, according to the lawsuit. McLetchie said no one was at Wheeler’s home at the time.

The officer who shot Miracle was standing guard on a lot on Shoshone Lane, directly behind Wheeler’s residence, according to the lawsuit. The lot was separated from Wheeler’s backyard by a cinder-block wall. There was a “Beware of Dogs” sign beside a gate.

“The dog wasn’t going to get over the wall,” McLetchie said.

The lawsuit claims both departments lack appropriate training or policies to avoid unnecessarily killing dogs. They shoot and kill dogs that appear to be pit bulls “due to an irrational fear and lack of training,” according to the document.

McLetchie also represents a Las Vegas couple who filed the civil rights lawsuit last year against North Las Vegas police and the two officers who fatally shot their dogs.

On Sept. 14, 2012, Thomas Walker and Cathy Cataldo were living at 6253 Rocky Mountain Ave. with their two pit bulls, Pinky and Blue, when North Las Vegas SWAT officers served a drug search warrant at a home near Carey Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, according to their complaint.

The lawsuit claimed the dogs were shot as they ran toward the backyard, away from officers. Walker was arrested at the scene.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.

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