Suit alleges SAPD withheld puppy shooting records

By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News
Originally published Dec. 4, 2013

SAN ANTONIO — What happened during a San Antonio police raid at a Babcock Road apartment last spring in which two puppies were allegedly shot and killed?

Only police know, and they refuse to release details, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the city and its police chief, William McManus.

Patricia Taylor, a member of the grass-roots organization Texas Moms United to End the War on Drugs, filed a formal public records request for the police report a little more than a week after the May 10 incident. She received no answer, the lawsuit said, so she followed up June 21.

The Police Department did not acknowledge or respond to the request, in violation of the Texas Public Information Act, according to the lawsuit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin.

“They just blew her off,” said Brian McGiverin, Texas Civil Rights Project attorney.

“We’re really concerned about people getting hurt and animals getting killed in these raids,” Taylor said Wednesday. “It seems these incidents are happening more and more.”

Taylor does not live at the apartment and does not know who does. She said she knew from a news report that the pet dogs shot and killed were 10 months old and 3 months old and that no drugs were found. The breed was not identified, and it was not immediately clear if anyone was charged in the raid.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Bexar County, alleges that the Police Department broke the law when it withheld records of the shooting. The lawsuit seeks a judicial order instructing the department to release the report and seeks a finding that the department refrain from a policy or practice of withholding such public information.

“Transparency is essential to public accountability. And Texans know how to keep government accountable — our laws entitle the public ‘to complete information about the affairs of government,’” said McGiverin. “You can’t run a democracy any other way.”

The department, citing the pending lawsuit, directed inquiries to City Attorney Michael Bernard, who said he was not familiar with the particular request and had not seen the litigation. He said the city gets thousands of public information requests a year.

“We try to be diligent in responding to them and fulfilling all of our legal obligations,” said Bernard, whose last day as city attorney is Thursday. “If something fell through the cracks, and I’m not saying that it did because I don’t know anything about this particular response, but if it did, it was unintentional.”