Kinship Circle: JUSTICE SERVED? St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office In Hot Seat

June 12th, 2007 12:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at] brick.net
Date: Jun 11, 2007 11:07 PM
Subject: JUSTICE SERVED? St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office In Hot Seat

KINSHIP CIRCLE ANIMAL DISASTER RELIEF
http://www.KinshipCircle.org

PLEASE CROSS-POST AS WRITTEN

6/11/07: JUSTICE SERVED?
Lawsuit Puts St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office In Hot Seat

WE MUST NEVER FORGET, from Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle:

I weep, even now. Not a day passes that I don’t conjure images of those babies, ripped from loving arms. The tiny poodle, GiGi. The faithful Lab marooned on a rooftop, only to watch his people fly away without him.

GiGi’s story (featured in ABC article below) was among those gathered when Shannon Moore and I devoted our days to Louisiana’s Pet Evacuation Bill.

Gigi & Judy Migliore

GiGi with Judy Migliore, before Hurricane Katrina

GIGI’S STORY, as told to me while gathering resources during effort to pass Louisiana Pet Evac Bill:

As Judy and Santo Migliore evacuated on to a barge, an official threatened to handcuff Judy if she didn’t abandon GiGi, a 10-pound toy poodle. Judy clung to her 6-year-old dog with the apricot marks inside one ear and along her back. But officials stood firm and Judy was forced to leave GiGi with a St. Bernard Parish Deputy in Violet, Louisiana.

The Migliores and three of five adult children were now homeless, their former addresses washed away in the levee break after Katrina. Desperate to find GiGi, they embarked on an internet search from their hotel room in Lafayette, LA. The checked every shelter in Louisiana and perused Petfinders, once stumbling upon a white miniature poodle relocated to a Michigan Humane Society shelter. That lead, like others, was a dead end.

On October 7, an email arrived: “I am so sorry if this is GiGi,” Dana, a rescue volunteer, wrote. “You cannot see it in the pictures, but the dog’s nails are painted… The dog was found either in room 206, 208, or 210. Please, please accept my condolences if this is GiGi…”

In the photo, a tangle of white fur rested atop a puddle of feces and blood. Patches of sunlight framed the tiny dog and a discarded cigarette butt lay by her head. GiGi had finally been found.

On October 7, Judy Migliore wrote to Ellen Little, another volunteer in the search for GiGi: “Ellen, just wanted to let you know that my baby, GiGi, was found and that it’s been confirmed she was never taken from the shelter. She died. The Pasado Animal Shelter in St. Bernard Parish found her… Once again, thank you and all the kind people who tried to bring this to a happy ending. But, now it has ended in sadness…”

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 01 - GiGi

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Lawsuit: Katrina Pets Executed
Investigations, Two Criminal Indictments and a Lawsuit Put the Heat on St. Bernard Parish’s Sheriff’s Office

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Story?id=3265151&page=1

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 02 - GiGi

This white poodle, Gigi, was among the dogs allegedly killed by authorities after their owners were forcibly evacuated during Hurricane Katrina. A lawsuit says an animal rescue worker found Gigi shot in the head.

By JIM AVILA, ELIZABETH TRIBOLET and CHRIS FRANCESCANI
ABC News Law & Justice Unit I June 11, 2007

For nearly two years, pet owners from the low-lying Louisiana parish of St. Bernard have accused sheriff’s deputies of having wantonly killed dozens of dogs they forced evacuees to leave behind during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, without regard to the dogs’ size or the potential threat they might pose.

One owner said her family was forced at gunpoint to leave its dog behind. Another owner said residents became frantic when, they said, they overheard one deputy claim that “once everybody’s gone, we’re going to have target practice tonight.” They claim in court papers that deputies were under ” authorization…of their superiors and employers.

Two deputies have already been indicted by a grand jury in New Orleans on charges of felony, aggravated cruelty to animals. The Louisiana attorney general’s office is investigating and this morning lawyers for a group of owners will file a comprehensive complaint in federal court in Louisiana seeking class action status for their clients.

More on this story tonight on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. EDT

For the first time, the St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s office has acknowledged to ABC News’ Law & Justice Unit that an internal investigation has been launched. In an interview last week, Sal Gutierrez, who represents the sheriff’s office, defended the department’s handling of a clearly difficult evacuation. Gutierrez said the shells left behind in the schools did not necessarily come from the weapons issued to department deputies. He denied allegations that orders to kill the dogs came from superior officers, calling that claim “false.” He said that if the investigation turned up any wrongdoing by deputies, the St. Bernard sheriff would take appropriate disciplinary action. If something false has been alleged in the lawsuit, he said he would consider countercharges of defamation of character. He said that he and the sheriff were animal lovers.

In December, the sheriff’s office released a statement declaring that any actions taken had been done with “the utmost care, caution and belief of its necessity,” according to the newspaper New Orleans City Business. But Gutierrez told ABC News that until the internal investigation was complete, he could not adequately answer all the charges. “I can’t tell you we don’t have a renegade or two,” Gutierrez told ABC News.

“If you’re talking about a rabid dog roaming the streets trying to attack, that’s understandable to try and find and euthanize a dog,” said plaintiff attorney Randall Smith. But, he said later, “some of them were poodles, miniature dogs, tied up, most outrageous[ly] in schools, no way a threat to anybody.”

One of the key pieces of evidence in the civil case is expected to be video footage shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Leeson Jr., who said he witnessed dogs being shot while filming in the area after Katrina for the Dallas Morning News.

“They shot the dog I was trying to help right in front of me,” he told reporters at the time. On his video, posted HERE
(http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/photography/2005/katrina_video/straydogs.html#dmn) on the newspaper’s Web site, gunshots can clearly be heard.

Mike Minton, a former sergeant from the St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s office, acknowledges shooting dogs but says it was done for humane reasons. Gutierrez told ABC News that Minton was “let go” from the department and was “no longer an employee.” Minton, one of two deputies indicted in December on animal cruelty charges, did not return a call from ABC.

Shooting Gallery

“It was a massacre. It was a shooting gallery,” said Mark Steinway, co-founder of the animal rescue group Posada Safe Haven [sic]. Steinway was among those who discovered the animals’ bodies at three school evacuation centers, gathered evidence and urged the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation. “We documented as best we could as a crime scene,” he said. “It was obvious [the dogs] had been chased around. There were so many rounds of ammunition and so many holes in the walls and so many random shots to body cavities and legs, areas where you know the animals were trying to get away from these guys.”

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 03 - Mark Steinway

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 04 - Mark Steinway

Mark Steinway gathers evidence at scene of shooting. Photos: Pasado Safe Haven
NOTE: These two photos + all photos below were inserted by Kinship Circle, and did not appear with ABC’s online story.

Steinway described one harrowing discovery he made in the one of the parish schools that he said exemplified the wantonness with which the animals were killed. “Somebody carefully tied up these two dogs in one of the rooms and shot them, and didn’t even shoot them at close range in the head to put them out of their misery,” he said. “They backed up and started shooting, with a shotgun started firing. Pellets all over the floor, bullet holes in the wall. It was a slaughter.”

Please Do Not Shoot Her

Some of the pet owners who spoke with ABC News said they had waited until the last minute to evacuate for good reason. One woman’s daughter had just had a major surgery. Another had a medical condition that prevented him from driving and an elderly father too weak to drive. The waters rose rapidly and communication was difficult at best. Many residents were rescued from their rooftops, their animals clinging to them.

On Aug. 28, 2005, with floodwaters roaring through St. Bernard Parish, officials announced St. Bernard’s High School as a shelter of last resort, according to court papers obtained by ABC News. Three days later, on Aug. 31, officials evacuated the high school shelters and took residents to the Algiers Point ferry landing. As residents were separated from their animals and moved out of the shelters, many desperately scrawled messages on the walls of the school rooms.

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 05 - Pleading

Photo: Pasado Safe Haven

“There is 1(sic) very nice dog in there. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel,” read one message. Another, with a name and phone number, read, “Call me please. I want my pets back.”

“In this room are six adult dogs and four puppies. Please save them! Kit.”

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 06 - Pleading

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 07 - Pleading

Photos: Pasado Safe Haven

Everybody, We’re Under Water

Plaintiff John Bozes said his black Labrador, Angel Girl, had saved his family’s life. Floodwaters had reached the top of the door of his parish home, he told ABC News. “I walked to the door right there, I go to put my hand on the knob to open it, she got between me and that door and nudged me back. When I looked back I saw water coming through the top of the door and I said, ‘Oh boy, we’re in trouble.'”

“Everybody, we’re under water!” he hollered to his family, who climbed through the attic to reach the home’s roof. They were evacuated to St. Bernard’s High School, where he said they were told to evacuate without the pets. “It was a mandatory evacuation — we either go to jail or get shot, or we leave our pets behind.”

Then, he said, he and other owners heard a deputy say, ‘Man, once everybody’s gone, we’re going to have target practice tonight.”’

“There was so much commotion after that statement was made,” he said. “We stood our ground and said, ‘We’re not leaving them.'”

“Next thing you know, we’re either leaving … or you get shot.”

Bozes’ father, Paul, said he thought about Angel Girl all the time. “I hope I’m not wrong in saying this, but from the bottom of my heart — if I see that boy or the man that shot her, they better have a lot of people around to keep me from hitting them.”

“These are animals,” John Bozes said, “but they have brains just like you and I. They have feelings like we have. … Tough animals, wonderful animals, lovable animals. And to have somebody shoot for no reason at all, I don’t think no animal in that school would have hurt somebody, especially Angel. She was too lovable.”

John Bozes and his sister were separated from their three dogs — Angel Girl, a pit bull named Honey and a Husky mix named Bullet — when they were evacuated. The dogs were taken to Beauregard Middle School and St. Bernard’s Parish High School.

“Bullet, the Husky mix, was found dead in the corner of Beauregard Middle School,” according to the complaint. “The cord from the Venetian blind on the nearest window had been tied to Bullet’s collar. Angel Girl and Honey were found together, also in a corner. Angel Girl had been tethered to the Venetian blinds on a nearby window. Honey was not tied, but lay at Angel Girl’s side.”

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 08 - John Bozes

John Bozes with photo of Angel Girl. Photo: Pasado Safe Haven

Kinship Circle - 2007-06-11 - 09 - Beauregard Middle School

Brenda Shoss stands outside a now deserted, boarded-up Beauregard Middle School (St. Bernard Parish), during an animal aid trip to New Orleans Feb. 07.

Threatened

Plaintiff Joyce Stubbs was told she could not bring her dogs, Max and Lucky, with her when she was evacuated from Beauregard High School, so “she poured bottles of water and soft drinks into a large ice chest for her dogs to drink,” according to court documents. “She also put out a lot of food where the dogs could readily access it.”

“Stubbs and her children spent a long moment saying goodbye to her dogs. A Sheriff’s deputy approached them and pointed a shotgun at her son’s face and threatened to shoot him if they did not leave the dogs. He also pointed the shotgun at their small dog Lucky,” the complaints reads.

I Live With This Every Day

Judy Migliore and her husband spent three days going from rooftop to rooftop with their daughters and their poodle, Gidget, which she said means “small” in Hawaiian. Migliore said they called the dog Gigi. When it was time to go, Migliore said she pleaded with a deputy to let her take the poodle.

“I begged. … I was crying. I said, ‘Please, she’ll never, never touch the ground. She’ll stay in my arms the whole time.’ He said, ‘Ma’am, we can do it either nicely or not nicely,’ and he said, ‘I’m prepared to handcuff you.’

“I turned and looked at my husband and I said, ‘I can’t! I cannot leave her,’ and the deputy I knew came up at that time and he said, ‘Miss Judy, give her to me and I’ll see what I can do.’ I gave her to him because I couldn’t and he turned and give her to the deputy and that was the last time we seen him,” she said, referring to the deputy.

“I kept thinking … she going to be terrified that I wasn’t holding her, she was going to be terrified of bad weather and other dogs because of big dogs. Pit bulls, Great Danes, huge dogs. … I knew she was going to be terrified. … And I kept thinking, ‘I’m leaving her.'”

“I live with this every day in my thoughts and in my heart because she was our baby, and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.”

Two weeks later, Migliore said, her brother-in-law went back to the school where they Gigi, but he was turned away. One daughter went online to animal rescue sites and another daughter visited shelters. They knew the poodle would be easy to identify. Gigi was pure white, with freshly clipped nails painted red and a brown collar with a St. Francis of Assisi medal around her
neck.

On Oct. 9, according to the complaint, a rescue worker informed the family that Gidget had been found shot in the head .

Presented with some of the allegations made in court documents and to ABC News, Gutierrez, the attorney for the sheriff’s department, said that he would like to depose the plaintiffs under oath.

Gigi, shot in the head and left to rot by St. Bernard Parish deputies

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Kinship Circle – Action Campaigns I Literature I Voice For Animals
Nonprofit working in animal protection/cruelty + animal disaster relief campaigns
Brenda Shoss, president * Janet Enoch, vice-president
info [at] kinshipcircle.org or kinshipcircle [at] brick.net
http://www.KinshipCircle.org * http://www.kinshipcircle.org/disasters/default.html

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6 Responses to “Kinship Circle: JUSTICE SERVED? St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office In Hot Seat”

  1. chelsea Says:

    gigi was a good dog she wasnt mean we all loved her!!! this is my grandmaws dog i gave her my dog after all this!! i love her and gigi!!

  2. Kelly Says:

    Chelsea – I am so, so sorry for your family’s loss. Just thinking about what happened to GiGi – not to mention all the animals affected by Hurricane Katrina – brings tears to my eyes. Hopefully GiGi’s killers will soon be brought to justice.

  3. Daniel M. Marcus Says:

    Dear friends, your efforts are certainly in my prayers. I recently lost my beloved Joe Joe, my canine companion of fifteen years to natural causes and I am in despair, my heart breaks knowing the pain these people must feel having lost their child-like pets under such unnecessary circumstances. I can relate to them because Joe Joe woke me up when flood waters began to overtake my apartment as Katrina was hitting Pass Christian. I refused to evacuate accepting the possible consequences. I would not leave Joe Joe, he had been through so much with me already and he was recovering from cancer surgery. Needless to say the law enforcement people over here never ever pointed a gun at me or threatened me, and on the following day even the Coast Guard was willing to evacuate both Joe Joe and I. I am a native of Louisiana and love Louisiana, but what were these officers thinking, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sued in civil court. I wish I would have been their, I wish I could testify against them. Daniel M. Marcus

  4. Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » Business as usual. Says:

    […] By the by, this isn’t the first dog shooting scandal to hit New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Parish Deputy Sheriff Mike Minton and Sergeant Clifford “Chip” Englande were videotaped shooting companion animals whose guardians had been forced – sometimes at gunpoint – to leave them behind. Charges against both have been dismissed. This is not be to confused with another case, in which companion animals left (supposedly in safety) in four schools elementary in St. Bernard Parish were gunned down, execution style. The case(s?) is still open. […]

  5. Men Hate You And Your Little Dog, Too : Elaine Vigneault Says:

    […] By the by, this isn’t the first dog shooting scandal to hit New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Parish Deputy Sheriff Mike Minton and Sergeant Clifford “Chip” Englande were videotaped shooting companion animals whose guardians had been forced – sometimes at gunpoint – to leave them behind. Charges against both have been dismissed. This is not be to confused with another case, in which companion animals left (supposedly in safety) in four schools elementary in St. Bernard Parish were gunned down, execution style. The case(s?) is still open. […]

  6. Erica Ory Says:

    My Name is Erica.. The Pitbull Honey that they talk about was my dog she was only 4 MONTHS OLD… How could you kill a baby?? Bullet was a good dog very protective of the family.. & Angel Girl such a sweet heart and wouldn’t hurt a fly…. I don’t understand how someone could kill such sweet loving animals?? I think they should be put under the Jail… JUSTICE FOR THE ANIMALS SHOT IN KATRINA!!!!

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