Court allows Minneapolis dog shooting suit to proceed

A federal appeals court on Monday allowed a Minneapolis woman to move forward with her lawsuit against a Minneapolis police officer who shot and wounded her dogs in 2017.

Officer Michael Mays fired at the animals while responding to a false burglar alarm.

Video from Jennifer Livingston's security camera shows her 60-pound pit bull Ciroc walking toward Mays as if to greet the officer. Mays then shoots the dog in the face before shooting Livingston's other dog Rocko. Both animals survived but suffered severe injuries.

Rocko is trained as a service animal and alerts Livingston when she is about to have a seizure. Ciroc is trained to aid Livingston’s daughter, who suffers from panic attacks.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with U.S. District Judge John Tunheim's decision last year denying the city's request to dismiss the case.

In his ruling, Tunheim said he would not “approve a declaration of open season on dogs who merely walk towards police.”

Mike Padden, Livingston’s attorney, said neither animal put Officer Mays in danger.

"When you watch the video, it's just obvious that what he did was just inappropriate,” Padden said. “The dog is wagging its tail. The dog presented no threat to him whatsoever. And then of course the second dog ran out of the house because it heard its companion yelp, and he shot that dog too."

Padden said he hopes to reach a settlement with the city soon, but noted that the city attorney can continue an appeal to a larger panel of judges.

The city attorney's office declined to comment on its next steps.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.