Federal Judge Will Preside Over Puppy Owners' Lawsuit Against the City
CHICAGO — The case against the city, the Chicago Police department and one of its cops who stands accused of unjustly shooting a puppy in Uptown is out of county courts and in federal hands.
Lawyers for the city filed a motion on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois to transfer the case to a federal judge, and Judge John Grady will now preside over the case.
City lawyers argued in the motion that the original complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Dec. 4, should instead fall under federal jurisdiction because it contains allegations that plantiffs Al and Barbara Phillips' First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated.
The couple said that they were victims of unreasonable seizure and excessive force when Officer Brandon Pettigrew allegedly shot their 7-month-old miniature bull terrier on Dec. 1, according to the suit, which seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
A spokesman with the city law department was unreachable for comment.
Erron Fisher, one of the family's lawyers, said in an emailed statement that Chicago "has substantially altered the demographics of the potential jury," and that the city, "by removing this case from state court," has "created a situation where the potential jury pool that will decide this case now consists of people that can live nearly 100 miles away from Chicago," the statement said.
"While we believe in the jury system and that the Phillips family will obtain a fair and impartial jury in federal court, we are saddened that the city wishes to burden people that live a significant distance away from the courthouse to decide issues of its own misconduct," said the statement.
The puppy that sparked the suit, Colonel, is a miniature bull terrier who was left with a bullet in one of his paws and bullet fragments in his belly earlier this month and endured nearly six hours of surgery.
Witnesses say that Pettigrew had been writing World Gym Chicago owner Al Phillips a parking ticket in front of his house in the 800 block of West Buena Avenue when the dog ran ahead of its master — without a leash on — and the officer screamed two warnings before quickly firing.
Colonel was released from the hospital within days of the shooting but his condition soon worsened. He continues to recover and is "licking his wounds," according to lawyers for the Phillips family.
The Independent Police Review Agency is investigating his shooting and would not comment on the case.
Police, however, defended the shooting as justified at a CAPS meeting last week.