La Plata County family sues Colorado State Patrol for shooting dog

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 10:46 PM

A La Plata County family filed a lawsuit this week against the Colorado State Patrol for shooting a pit bull in October, ultimately leading to the animal having to be euthanized because of its injuries.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll said Thursday the State Patrol cannot comment on pending litigation. He said once the matter is settled in court, the agency will make a statement. As of Thursday, State Patrol had not filed a response to the lawsuit.

As a result, the only information available about the incident is found through the family’s lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court by Denver attorney Kristina Bergsten on behalf of Neil Anderson and Kerry Doyle.

According to the lawsuit, on Oct. 12, Colorado State Patrol troopers walked onto the family’s property, which is located about 15 miles south of Durango, off La Posta Road, to investigate a car accident involving a minor who lives at the address.

Troopers met with the minor’s father, who lives at a neighboring residence. The father told troopers at least twice to call Anderson and Doyle before going onto the property so the couple could lock up their 6-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, named Dozer, according to the complaint.

The term “pit bull” is commonly used to refer to the American Staffordshire terrier breed.

Troopers apparently ignored these warnings and walked up the driveway past a “beware of dog” sign. The lawsuit says the troopers did not announce themselves as police officers and did not give prior notice of their visit.

The family, at the time, was outside at a skate ramp that parallels the driveway, the lawsuit says.

Dozer saw the troopers and “trotted towards them.” As the pit bull approached, Trooper Gablin Watkins “panicked and walked backwards, around (Troopers Josiah Fuller and Randy Talbot), while reaching for his firearm.”

“Neil Anderson yelled, ‘No, that’s my-! Hey, hey, hey! No, no no! No, don’t!’ before Trooper Watkins shot Dozer three times, making contact twice,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims Watkins was “acting in a reckless and careless manner by spinning around and circling the driveway” so that the other troopers were unable to use a Taser. The shots fired were 50 feet from the skate ramp.

Dozer, the lawsuit says, “let out a high-pitched cry or yelp and ran away to hide under the skate ramp.” The family tried to apply pressure to the dog’s wounds as “blood spurted out and he bled from his mouth.”

Dozer initially survived the wounds and underwent extensive surgery. Regardless, the family was forced to euthanize the dog Nov. 2. The lawsuit is adamant that Dozer showed no signs of aggression.

The lawsuit says the troopers violated the family’s constitutional rights. They now seek “relief through compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.”

Attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful Thursday.

Driscoll said Watkins remains on active duty with the State Patrol.