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Saturday, January 10, 2015

A lawsuit against the City of Lockport, Lockport Police Department, Officer Michael Wasik, Lt. Marshall Belling, and Police Chief Larry Eggert blames the city and police department for the wrongful death of a pitbull named Junior on Sept. 27.

The lawsuit claims that Officer Wasik and Lt. Belling entered the backyard at 335 South Street around 3:30 p.m. on the date of the incident, letting the pitbull into the front yard when doing so, "where they discharged their firearms numerous times, gratuitously and in an unjustified manner, thereby shooting and killing claimant’s eight-year old canine."

Filed in Niagara County Supreme Court on Dec. 19 by Matthew A. Albert of Buffalo, who is serving as the attorney for the owner of the dog, Zachary Smith, the lawsuit does not seek specific compensation for damages.


In addition to the wrongful death claim, the lawsuit states that the police department unlawfully seized Junior's body and withheld evidence from Smith, while wrongfully charging him with crimes related to the incident.

"Simply put, Chief Eggert and his department have unlawfully ignored requests for documents, withheld records, tampered with evidence, and have been playing cover up and hide the ball since they killed the dog," Albert said.

For those reasons, Albert said, it was decided that in addition to the lawsuit, a group of animal activists would carry out a bit of public relations in serving the paperwork to Eggert, something that was done on Dec. 23.

A pair of process servers — Morgan Dunbar and Robin Donovan — dressed as elves, arrived at the Lockport Police Station with an announced "present" for Eggert. An unwitting Mark Sanders brought the chief out into the lobby of the police department to be served with the paperwork by the elves.

The whole incident was captured on camera and posted to YouTube:

Albert said the trick was not merely for entertainment value. "Serving them on a video that has now been viewed by thousands of people may have been the only way for the department to actually acknowledge service of the paperwork."

Eggert acknowledged tonight by phone having been served in the peculiar manner. He said he didn't look at the entirety of the paperwork, but rather forwarded it to Corporation Counsel John Ottaviano.

Eggert noted that the criminal procedure against Smith is ongoing and will next be in court on Jan. 26. 

Albert claims those charges are “trumped up,” and retaliatory in nature. “Even if one were to adopt the Police’s fraudulent version of events, how in God’s name does one permit a dog to break through a locked gate? This whole thing is a sham, and that is by far the nicest word I can use to describe these proceedings.”

In addition to the YouTube campaign, a Facebook page "Justice 4 Junior" was set up shortly after the dog died. It has 1,138 likes as of this evening.

NOTE: Story edited at 9:04 p.m. to remove incorrect information on the location of the incident as listed in the first paragraph.

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