Police Overkill in Florida


ORLANDO (CN) - Orange County, Fla. sheriff's officers forced their way in to a home, killed the pet dog as it hid in a closet and shot a teenage girl without justification, apparently while looking for someone else, the family claims in court.
     Juanita Cruz and Jennifer Seda sued Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings on Monday in Superior Court. They claim a sheriff's SWAT team kicked in their door, shot their dog to death and shot Seda three times in the legs. She was 17.
     Cruz rented the home and shared it with Seda and her dog.
     The sheriff's office obtained a warrant to search the property in July 2010 on the basis of probable cause based on previous police encounters with a Christopher Seda, the complaint states.
     "Upon entering the premises, a member of the Orange County SWAT team shot Plaintiff Jennifer Seda three times in the legs and threw her face down on the ground," according to the lawsuit. "A member of the SWAT team then restrained plaintiff Jennifer Seda and forced his knee into her back and began hitting her and telling her to be quiet."
     The women say the officers shot the dog to death although the animal showed no aggression against them and was actually hiding in the closet.
     Seda was unarmed and weighed about 100 pounds.
     "The Orange County SWAT team detained plaintiff Jennifer Seda in her own home, where she was held against her will, interrogated, and denied medical treatment for approximately four to five hours," the lawsuit states.
     The women say the raid was reckless and excessive, that at no time before the forced entry did the sheriff's office contact them to try to find out if Christopher Seda lived there, which he did not.
     They seeks damages for negligence, property damage, excessive force, battery, assault, false imprisonment and violation of Florida's Knock and Announce law.
     The Knock and Announce law requires law enforcement to knock and allow a reasonable opportunity to permit a peaceful entry.
     The women claim they have been embarrassed and emotionally distressed, and had no choice but to move after the incident that made their family a "public scandal."
     They are represented by Darylaine Hernandez, of Orlando.
     Hernandez did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
     The Orange County Sheriff's Office declined to comment.