On May 9, 2015, West Virginia State Trooper Seth Cook walked onto Tiffanie Hupp’s property, drew his gun, and aimed it at Buddy, the family dog who was safely tied to a tree.
Cook ordered Hupp, who was playing with her 3-year-old son Riley, to control the dog. Seeing that the trooper was planning on violently murdering the dog in front of her 3-year-old son, Hupp got between the trooper and the dog. The trooper pushed Hupp to the ground, threw her against his car, and arrested her.
Cook then entered Hupp’s home without a warrant or any sort of probable cause and confiscated a device that recorded the encounter.
“After he put me in the patrol car and arrested me, he just walks up to the trailer and up the the phones and, whatever devices were on chargers, he took them,” Hupp said in an interview.
“He took my husband’s phone, he took my phone, he took my sister-in-law’s and my son’s tablet. And we don’t use those phones or tablets anymore. If my phone leaves my hands and goes into the hands of a cop, I kinda don’t trust that.”
The police refused to return the devices until she gave them the password.
Hupps ordeal didn’t end there. In a gross example of prosecutorial injustice, the state prosecuted her for misdemeanor obstruction of justice for interfering with the trooper’s attempt to shoot the restrained dog, and the state assigned her a public defender that insisted that she plead guilty.
The public defender, Lori Snodgrass, insisted that Hupp plead guilty to the charges. Members of the media eventually discovered that Lori is married to West Virginia state trooper Bradley Stodgrass, who happens to be Seth Cook’s boss.
After the discovery, Hupp obtained new legal counsel and the case proceeded to trial.
“It shocks the conscience that police would arrest and prosecutors would seek to incarcerate a woman who did nothing other than protect a dog from being illegally shot,” said John Campbell one of Hupp’s lawyers.
Cook testified at the trial that he was trained to shoot dogs under any circumstance, even if it clearly did not pose any threats to him or others.
“Police shooting dogs is a preventable tragedy in most situations. Many jurisdictions are providing mandatory canine encounter trainings to law enforcement to address these types of encounters without lethal force,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells in a statement. “Police officers are going to interact with dogs in the field, so they should be given the knowledge and resources to assess the threat involved and utilize alternatives to lethal force if they interact with a dog who they believe may be aggressive.”
A jury ultimately acquitted Hupp, but she and the other plaintiffs are now seeking restitution from Cook and the department, which killed at least 15 other dogs over the last several years, for excessive force, unlawful arrest, unlawful search and seizure, violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments. The suit also alleges malicious prosecution, negligent training of a police officer, battery, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
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