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Jury awards family $300,000 after police kill man’s dog during search

Updated: November 3, 2011 10:58AM

Thomas Russell III describes watching a police officer shoot his canine “best friend” two years ago as “the scariest thing I ever saw.”

On Thursday, a U.S. District Court jury decided Russell, 20, and his family deserved to be compensated for the Feb. 27, 2009, police search of the family’s South Side home during which “Lady,” the family’s black Labrador, was shot dead. The jury awarded the family about $300,000.

“That was my best friend,” said Russell, who was 18 at the time. “We did everything together. When I worked out, she’d be right there watching me. She’d sleep when I’d sleep.”

The Russell family originally sued the city of Chicago in January 2010, accusing police of excessive force, false arrest and inflicting intentional emotional harm — among other claims — during the 2009 search of the family’s apartment in the 9200 block of South Justine. Though police searched for drugs, they found none in the apartment, the family’s lawyers say. Russell and his younger brother, Darren, were handcuffed during the incident, attorneys for the family said, and both boys had shotguns placed against their heads. At some point, Lady appeared and an officer shot her, the family’s lawyers said. Lady was a sweet dog, and police had no reason to fear her, Russell said.

Jenny Hoyle, a city’s Law Department spokeswoman, said they are “extremely disappointed” with the verdict. “The officers involved in this case were executing a valid search warrant when this incident occurred and were simply protecting themselves,” Hoyle said. “We are extremely disappointed and reviewing all of our options. In particular, we think the damages awarded to the plaintiffs were excessive.”

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