Not having electricity or natural gas in your home can have some shocking consequences in St. Louis County, Missouri. A lawsuit alleges that a SWAT team raided a woman’s home and killed her dog in an attempt to enforce a code mandating that homes have utilities.
Five officers from the St. Louis County Police Tactical Response Unit armed with M-4 carbines, along with another eight uniformed officers, burst into Angela Zorich’s home without knocking on April 29, 2014, The Riverfront Times reported. The first thing one of the officers did was shoot and kill Zorich’s 4-year-old pit bull, Kiya, with three shots to her stomach. The dog had not barked and was not charging, the lawsuit says.
“As Kiya did not immediately die from her wounds, Ms. Zorich begged officers to help her dog but they refused,” a federal lawsuit, Zorich vs. St. Louis County, alleges. “Ms. Zorich and her son then pleaded to at least be allowed to comfort their dying pet but St. Louis County’s officers, including defendant Rinck, again refused and Kiya was left to die afraid, in pain and uncomforted while watching armed strangers hold her family at gunpoint just feet from her.”
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Another officer then allegedly pointed a gun at Zorich’s son’s head and said, “One word, mother—–, and I’ll put three in you.”
All the officers were at the property at the request of the County Housing Inspector. The inspector had labeled Zorich’s home a problem property after receiving an anonymous tip that the family was living without utilities. The family maintains the house had electricity.
Police took Zorich into custody for building citations involving guard rails, siding, screens, window glass and her deck. Zorich was also arrested on traffic warrants for speeding, running a red light, and driving an unregistered vehicle, a police report indicates.
Police said the SWAT raid was necessary because the residents had an “extensive violent history.”
Two of Zorich’s sons were also arrested; one of them faced charges of violating financial responsibility, interfering with police, disturbing the peace and assault. Another was arrested for failing to appear in court on a traffic case.
“This is an example of police overreaching and using excessive force to get a family out of their house,” the Zorich attorney, Kenneth Chackes, told The Riverfront Times.
The house actually faced foreclosure in 2013 but the family continued living there, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Neighbors told The Post-Dispatch that the Zorichs were something of a nuisance; the family drove over neighbors’ lawns, had fights, and used dogs to intimidate neighbors.
The family has since moved out of the house.
“I am so glad they are gone,” neighbor Mary Fran Pereira told The Post-Dispatch. “They are a plague. I wouldn’t wish them on anybody.”
Chackes, the family attorney, maintains the SWAT raid was unwarranted.
“There is nothing that justified the actions that the police took,” Chackes told The Post-Dispatch. “This is what they chose to do in response to a complaint about gas.”
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