Jury Finds Grant County Deputy Justified in Shooting Man's Dog - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Jury Finds Grant County Deputy Justified in Shooting Man's Dog

Posted: Updated:

GRANT COUNTY, WA - More than four years after it happened, a federal jury has determined a Grant County Sheriff Deputy was justified in shooting a dog to protect his K9 unit. 

Cpl. Beau Lamens shot and killed Slyder, a pitbull and rottweiler mix back in January in 2010. Slyder belonged to Nick Crisculos, a man who lives in Moses Lake. 

Deputies say Crisculos was at a park in Moses with his two dogs off the leash, when Slyder charged Lamens' K9 unit, Maddox, and bit his neck during a drug detection search. 

Lamens kicked Slyder in an attempt to stop the attack, but when he wouldn't back off, the deputy fired his weapon. 

The federal jury in Spokane heard evidence at the trial, that established Slyder was nearly twice the size of the Maddox. Keven King, a K9 trainer with the Spokane Police Department, testified that when a dog attacks in the manner that Slyder did, OC spray (mace) or Tasers are ineffective and shooting the attacking dog is the only reasonable alternative.   

After the shooting, Mr. Criscuolo sued Cpl. Lamens and the Grant County Sheriff's Office. Mr. Criscuolo made five claims:   

1. Cpl. Lamens' actions constituted an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment;  

2. Cpl. Lamens assaulted him;  

3. Cpl. Lamens' actions were outrageous;  

4. Cpl. Lamens' acted maliciously in killing his dog; and  

5. Cpl. Lamens' actions were inconsistent with his ownership rights to the dog.   

After Mr. Criscuolo presented his evidence at trial, the court dismissed the assault claim because the evidence did not support the claim. Then after listening to both sides of the case, the jury returned a verdict denying Cpl. Lamens' actions violated Mr. Criscuolo's Fourth Amendment rights. This means the jury believed Cpl. Lamens acted lawfully.  By denying the claims for Outrage and Malicious Injury to a Pet, the jury also did not believe Cpl. Lamens acted maliciously or recklessly in protecting Maddox. Finally, the fact that the jury did not award Mr. Criscuolo any emotional distress damages related to the shooting of his dog further evidences that they felt Cpl. Lamens acted properly.   

The only claim returned in Mr. Criscuolo's favor was the claim for conversion. Conversion is a common law claim where one person acts inconsistently with the ownership rights of another. The person's intent does not matter. Simply put, a person who cuts down a tree believing it to be on his property but later learns that the tree was on his neighbor's land has committed conversion. The only damages that can be awarded for this claim is the value of the property, which in this case was the value of the dog to Mr. Criscuolo. 

The jury determined that value to be $3600.   

"Cpl. Lamens did not want to shoot Mr. Criscuolo's dog," said Sheriff Tom Jones. "I feel sad for Mr. Crisculo's loss of a pet, but the fact remains that had Mr. Criscuolo obeyed the law and kept his dog on a leash while visiting a public park, his dog would not have attacked an on-duty police dog and Mr. Criscuolo's dog would still be alive today."   

Cpl. Lamens and the County were represented by attorneys Jerry Moberg and Patrick Moberg at trial.   

"We put our law enforcement officers in harm's way every day so that our community is safe. Sometimes they are called on to make split second decisions to protect us. Cpl. Lamens acted appropriately in eliminating a serious threat and the jury unanimously agreed," said Jerry Moberg.   

The shooting was investigated by the Chelan County Sheriff's Office shortly after it happened. The Chelan County report cleared Cpl. Lamens of any wrongdoing and concluded he acted in accordance with County policy and his law enforcement training in protecting his K9 partner.