It's been more than a year since Brittany Moore watched an Erie police officer fatally shoot her 4-year-old German shepherd Ava, but she said the events that took place that night still haunt her.
"It's been very painful," Moore said Thursday. "We still miss her. We will always miss her."
Now, Moore is suing the town of Erie and police Officer Jamie Chester over Ava's death. Attorneys with the Wheat Ridge-based Animal Law Center filed the lawsuit in Boulder District Court on Thursday on behalf of Moore and her three daughters. The family is seeking damages for civil rights violations, emotional harm and willful and wanton contact.
"They took our family member from us," Moore said. "They did wrong. They need to be made responsible for what they did."
Erie police Lt. Lee Mathis and Erie town spokesman Fred Diehl said they couldn’t comment because the town has yet to be served with Moore’s lawsuit. Chester, who could not be reached Thursday, is still with the police department, Mathis said.
On May 10, 2011, Moore said she called 911 after receiving threatening phone calls from her fiancé's ex-girlfriend at her house at 437 Conrad Drive. At around 8 p.m., Chester responded on the call, but mistakenly went to Moore's neighbor's house at 443 Conrad Drive, Moore said.
At the time, Moore said her two dogs, Ava and Lucy, were sitting in her yard. When she went next door to talk to Chester, the two dogs followed. When Chester began walking toward Moore's house, both dogs went up to Chester, who Moore said immediately put his hand on his holster and began backing up.
Moore said she became concerned for her dogs and called out "nein" -- "no" in German.
Moore said Ava -- who had a rawhide bone in her mouth the entire time -- turned her head toward Moore about 5 or 6 feet away from Chester before he opened fire, mortally wounding the dog. In his report, Chester said the dog bared its teeth and lunged at him,
Brittany Moore shows a photo and paw casting of her dog, Ava, that she keeps in a box with the dog's ashes. Attorneys with the Animal Law Center announced they have filed a lawsuit against the town of Erie and Erie police Officer Jamie Chester on behalf of Moore, whose dog was shot and killed by Chester in 2011 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )which Moore disputes.
"She was never aggressive at all," Moore said of Ava. "She grew up with my daughters. She was well-behaved and very loving, very loyal."
Since Chester had been involved in a previous incident in 2007 in which he fatally shot a dog after it mauled a 9-year-old boy, Erie police asked for an investigation by the Boulder County District Attorney's Office. The DA's office found no wrongdoing on Chester's part and did not press charges.
But according to Moore's lawsuit, a necropsy conducted at Colorado State University indicated the bullet entered through the dog's back and severed its spinal column, which is inconsistent with Chester's report.
Jennifer Edwards, the founder and an attorney with the Animal Law Center, said multiple witnesses back up Moore's version of events.
"Obviously the district attorney did not find any fault with the officer, but we beg to differ," she said. "We absolutely have done our due diligence and conducted our own investigation."
Moore said in the year since the shooting, she has never received any sort of apology from either Chester or the Erie Police Department, and she said the lack of action prompted the lawsuit.
"We gave them a year to make it right, and they didn't," she said. "I was never given an apology. Nothing was ever given to our family."
Click on any photo to see full galleryIn her house, Moore has a box with a picture of Ava that contains the dog's ashes, sympathy cards from friends and some of Ava's hair.
"It's very emotional," Moore said as she went through the items in the box Thursday. "It brings up all the emotions about what happened that night."
Moore said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and still goes to therapy sessions, along with her daughters, ages 6, 8 and 9.
"They still cry, they still have nightmares," she said. "It's hard for young ones to get. Why would a police officer shoot their dog? Try explaining that to a 9-year-old, or 8-year-old or 6-year-old. It's gut-wrenching."
The Animal Law Center's Edwards said she also hopes the lawsuit will change the way officers are trained.
"Hopefully it will change the way law enforcement handles our animals," she said. "Shooting should be absolutely the last resort."
Moore added: "It will make, hopefully, police more aware that you can't go around shooting just cause they have a badge. Maybe it will spare a family the tragedy we have gone through."