Suit Advances Against |Dog-Slaying Deputy

     (CN) — A Kansas sheriff’s deputy must face claims that he shot a white malamute husky to death on its owner’s porch for no reason, the 10th Circuit ruled.
     Affirming Monday that it would not dismiss the case, the Denver-based federal appeals court said it must accept the allegations in the complaint as true at this juncture.
     Kent and Tonya Mayfield filed the complaint at issue two years ago in Kansas.
     They say the shooting occurred on July 13, 2014, while the husky Majka and their other dog, Suka, were lying out in the front yard of their Halstead home.
     The Mayfields don’t have a fence, according to the complaint, and they say two deputies with the Harvey County Sheriff’s Department suddenly began firing.
     Neither dog had been behaving aggressively, the Mayfields insist.
     They say Suka fled as deputy Jim Bethards shot Majka to death on the front porch
     The deputies tried to find Suka, hoping to do her in as well, according to the complaint, but settled for hiding Majka’s body behind a row of trees to disguise the fact she was killed on the Mayfields’ property.
     Bethards moved to dismiss the complaint and took his case to the 10th Circuit when a federal judge denied him immunity.
     A three-judge panel with the court agreed Monday that the Mayfields may have a case under the Fourth Amendment against Bethards.
     The 13-page opinion quickly dispatches with Bethards’ claim that it was reasonable for him to kill Majka, regardless of the Fourth Amendment, “because he thought she had attacked livestock and he believed Kansas law allows anyone to kill a dog reported to have done so.”
     “But Deputy Bethards’s explanation for killing Majka is found in his police report, not the Mayfields’ complaint,” Judge Carolyn McHugh wrote for the court. At this stage of the proceedings, our review is limited to the complaint and any documents it incorporates.”
     While the complaint makes no mention of the police report, McHugh added, it does quote from a letter to the sheriff in which Mayfields supposedly exonerated Majka.
     The letter indicates that Majka had been accused of mauling a neighbor’s livestock in 2013, but that “the livestock owner shot the offending white husky during the previous incident,” as summarized in the ruling.
     Since the dog that was shot had to be put down, the Mayfields say it could not have been Majka.
     Bethards was represented on appeal by Toby Crouse with Foulston Siefkin of Overland Park, Kansas. The attorney declined to comment on the ruling.
     Judge McHugh chided the deputy for overly broad interpretation of precedent on pursuing dogs that have killed livestock.
     The ruling concludes by emphasizing that the deputy would have known in 2014 that killing Majka “would violate the Fourth Amendment absent a warrant ‘particularly describing the … things to be seized’ or circumstances justifying an exception to the warrant requirement.”

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