A Florida couple is alleging that police climbed through a window into their home without a search warrant and shot their dogs.
The Pensacola News Journal reported the incident occurred Sunday around 10:30 p.m. when deputies entered the home of 22-year-old Travis Nicholas and 32-year-old Cristina Moses. Nicholas and Moses were awoken by the noise and handcuffed. During the incident, their two dogs were shot, with one officer claiming he had been bitten. One of the dogs was euthanized later as a result of the shooting.
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the officers were investigating an earlier case of aggravated assault. In looking for a second suspect, statements from the assault victim and witnesses led deputies to the home where they found one window open while all others were closed.
“An upside-down bucket has been placed beneath the open window with a footprint on it, indicating possible unlawful entry,” a sheriff’s office press release stated, noting that the officers made repeated attempts to have someone open the door.
When those efforts were not successful, the deputies entered the house through the open window.
The sheriff’s office said that upon entering the home, two pit bulls became aggressive, with one biting a deputy’s leg. He shot the dog when it came at him a second time. At this point the second dog ran toward the officer, which prompted him to shoot this dog as well.
The Pensacola News Journal presented more details about what might have happened: Earlier that day man named Wayde Morris was arrested for aggravated assault after allegedly coming at his ex-girlfriend and her father with a baseball bat and machete. A second suspect identified as “Travis” had reportedly pointed a gun at people. It is this second person that police were on the hunt for Sunday night.
Fast-forward to when Nicholas and Moses were awoken by police at their bedroom door. The couple stated that they didn’t hear knocking on their front door, and it wasn’t until the police were inside their home that the dogs alerted them to their presence.
“I opened the door, and there were six police officers pointing guns at me and flashlights, saying ‘Show me your hands. Get on the ground,’” Moses told the News Journal.
Moses stated that Nicholas was then dragged into the hallway.
Watch this report from WEAR-TV about the incident:
A YouTube video shows the couple being interviewed after the incident.
“I couldn’t see them. I didn’t know if they were dead all the way or what,” Moses said of her dogs. “All I know is that they shot my dog and then they drug us outside, handcuffed us and put us on the curb.”
After the dogs were taken to a vet, the doctor assessed one of the dogs as having only about a 4 percent chance of living with a surgery that would cost about $10,000, Moses said beginning to choke up.
“They asked me if I wanted to humanely euthanize her so that she wouldn’t hurt anymore,” Moses said, wiping her tears. “And after thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to go ahead to sign the paperwork to euthanize her.”
“I’m frustrated because this could have been prevented,” Moses continued later. “These dogs never had lunged or bitten anyone ever. [...] I feel like my child has died.”
Watch the interview:
The News Journal reported that the officers did not have a search warrant, but noted that entering a home without a warrant is permissible if there is probable cause, such as fearing someone is in danger or that a suspect could escape.
The News Journal reported Nicholas denying even owning a gun. Neither Nicholas nor Moses had been charged as of Wednesday.
While the incident is under review, the press release states the deputies involved are on administrative duty.
This story has been updated.