“It’s becoming a disturbingly familiar scene in America - mentally unstable cops”

LaGrange man settles federal lawsuit against police officer who killed dog in 2010 shooting

LaGRANGE, Mo. -- A LaGrange man who filed a federal lawsuit against a LaGrange police officer who fatally shot his dog has settled the case just before it was to head to trial.
St. Louis-based attorney James Schottell Jr., who represented Marcus Mays of LaGrange, said the sides agreed to a $50,000 settlement. In January 2012, Mays filed a federal lawsuit against LaGrange police officer Doug Howell, Police Chief Dale McNelly and the city of LaGrange. Howell shot Mays' 1 1/2-year-old female American bulldog, Cammie, on March 31, 2010, as he responded to a dog-at-large call.
"I figured that as we got closer to trial that we would get a decent settlement," Schottell Jr. said. "You have the loss value of the dog. Even if he decided to breed it, it's a sizable settlement for the case. They probably doubled their offer since we started mediation."
The incident was captured on the dashboard camera of a police vehicle. It has been viewed more than 1.4 million times since it was posted in June 2010.
"The video was pretty compelling," Schottell said.
Mays was satisfied with the settlement.
"It's a shame that her life was taken so short," Mays said. "But I feel like justice has come out of this."
The settlement order was filed on April 15. Judge Jean C. Hamilton gave the sides 60 days to complete the necessary paperwork for dismissing the case.
Schottell Jr. said he planned to file the paperwork on Thursday.
Jeff Curl, who serves as the attorney for the city of LaGrange, deferred comment until after the case was officially dismissed. LaGrange's city administrator position is currently vacant and a person who answered the phone at City Hall declined comment.
The dog broke free from her chain about 7:30 a.m. on the day of the incident. Howell and fellow officer Jason Powell located the dog at the corner of Sixth and Buchanan. According to the incident report filed by Howell, the dog was tied up to the hitch of a trailer home in the area. Howell said he tried to put a collar around the dog, who then tried to flee. Howell said as he was trying to load the dog into the back of the truck that the dog "started acting aggressively."
"I began to start felling (sic) threatened by the dog due to its behavior," Howell wrote.
Howell said the asked Powell to call McNelly to ask him what to do about the situation. Howell tried to get a noose around the dog by using a snare pole. As he got the noose around the dog's head, the dog broke the chain.
"He was trying to bit (sic) and get away," Howell wrote.
When the dog settled down for a second, Howell drew his gun and fired a shot into the dog's shoulder.
"After a couple of seconds I observed the dog still alive," Howell wrote. "I fired another round into the dogs (sic) head."
Howell said he fired his first shot at 8:10 a.m. and the second a minute later.
On the video, Howell is shown putting a blanket over the dog after it had died.
During a deposition of Howell on Nov. 13, 2012, he said he was given no formal training on how to safely capture a dog at large. He said that he had never used a snare pole before the day of the incident. Howell testified that in addition to Powell calling McNelly, he also had called McNelly during the incident and asked for guidance. Howell said that McNelly told him to keep using the snare pole and to not get bit.
Howell said he shot the dog because he feared for his life.
"At the time I felt that it -- my -- that my life was in serious -- in serious threat," he said.
Howell admitted to killing the dog.
"After getting my bearings about me and what happened and being pretty upset, I didn't want the dog to have to suffer any more, so I shot another round into Cammie's head," he said. "(I wanted to make sure) that she couldn't feel any more pain."
In a separate deposition, McNelly denied ever speaking to Howell during the incident.
"My gut feeling is that McNelly told him to shoot the dog," Schottell Jr. said.
McNelly and the city of LaGrange were removed as co-defendants on Monday as part of the settlement agreement, Schottell Jr. said.
Howell is still employed as a LaGrange police officer.
Mays was fined $130 in June 2010 following the shooting incident for not registering his dog with the city of LaGrange and for failing to leash or muzzle a vicious dog.