Pepper was 14 years old, blind, and toothless when a police officer perceived her as a threat.
A Lemon Grove man is suing the City of San Diego and its police department for the shooting death of his dog, Pepper, a 14-year-old shepherd mix, in July 2014.
Kenneth Stetler filed the complaint in federal court on Monday, May 19. He says San Diego police officer Slater (first name unknown) exited his patrol car and opened fire on the 14-year-old blind dog without any provocation. The officer then turned his gun on Stetler's other dog Danni, shooting her in the chest. That dog survived after a lengthy rehabilitation.
According to the complaint, Stetler was outside with his dogs, who were unleashed, in his neighborhood during the afternoon hours of July 14, 2014. The dogs ran into the street to greet a neighbor who was walking her dog. The dogs, said the complaint, were "playing" in the street when Slater arrived in his squad car.
"Within the view of plaintiff’s neighbors, Officer Slater approached the playful dogs, drawing his gun. Many neighbors observed as [Slater] aimed his weapon at the dogs with an apparent intention to fire. Upon viewing [Slater], gun in hand, one neighbor was so overcome by a perceived threat of imminent harm, that she released the leash of the dog with whom Danni and Pepper were playing, and ran away. Likewise observing the threat of imminent harm, other neighbors began yelling to [Slater] not to shoot the dogs, alerting [the officer] that the dogs were just playing."
Slater, however, ignored their pleas, says the complaint, and fired two shots at the 14-year-old dog who had been sitting down amid the commotion.
The San Diego Police Department, included in the lawsuit, offered to pay for the vet bills, as reported by 10News the night of the incident and to care for Stetler's injured dog but have failed to do so.
Stetler is now asking that the city pay more than $450,000 for the civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress, and trespass.
"Following the shooting, plaintiff has suffered from anxiety, increase in blood pressure, internal bleeding, multiple surgeries, and depression due to watching his companions suffer and die. His life has been shortened because of this incident. Equitable relief is necessary in this case because relief at law is inadequate. The emotional devastation cannot be quantified, nor can Plaintiff’s life and the life of Pepper. Thus, equitable relief is necessary to provide justice in this case."