Three policemen and the Prince George’s County Police Department face a $16 million federal civil rights lawsuit brought by four Maryland housemates- Erica Umana, Dayri Benitez, Erika Sanchez, and Brandon Cuevas. They are suing the police for allegedly breaking into their residence, an apartment complex in Landover Hills, without a warrant, using excessive force, and shooting and paralyzing their dog, Hennessy, which led to its eventual euthanasia.
The cops tried to take the dog, which is against department policy and then broke into the apartment without a warrant after getting a master key from a maintenance worker, according to video from their body cameras. According to the complaint, neither the dog nor its owners were guilty of any wrongdoing.
On June 2, 2021, a lady called 911, alleging that two dogs had attacked her. Prince George’s County police officers responded by going to the apartments at Landover Hills. The woman said that the dogs had pounced on her and bit her. While waiting outside, Cpl. Jason Ball approached Sanchez, but she refused to answer any of his inquiries. According to video captured by body cameras, Ball said over his radio that he had reason to think Sanchez resided at the apartment complex. However, he threatened to arrest Sanchez anyway because she refused to answer his inquiries. Ball warned her that she would face trespassing charges.
According to the complaint, officers are required by department protocol to document incidents involving hazardous but confined animals in case records to be submitted to supervisors. The officers are responsible for locating and apprehending the animal “without harming themselves or the public” if the animal constitutes an imminent hazard, and only then should they contact animal control. Police must document and submit the incident to the animal control section no later than 24 hours after the incident if the animal cannot be located.
The roommates allegedly spent an hour in a police vehicle before being released without charges, according to the complaint.
Hennessy was being treated in an animal hospital; Umana went there to see the dog, and he was alive but paralyzed for life. A bill of $800 was sent to Umana for the euthanasia she requested. The county promised Umana financial assistance to cover the veterinarian expenses, but she was asked not to speak out or sue the police department in exchange.
Attorneys for the roommates were joined at the press conference announcing the lawsuit by representatives from the NAACP Maryland State Conference, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and other local activist groups. All of them claimed that the incident was just one in a long line of civil rights violations committed by the police department.