Family of slain pit bull pursuing lawsuit against Ogden PD

Wednesday , August 06, 2014 - 5:08 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- The owners of a beloved family dog shot by police are still waiting for answers and aren't about to let the issue be swept under the rug.

The family says it is planning to file a lawsuit against the Ogden City Police Department for the wrongful shooting of Chuva the pit bull.

“It’s not right, none of it is,” Mia Mendiola told the Standard-Examiner.

On July 23 at about 1 a.m., two Ogden officers responded to an emergency welfare check after receiving word from a woman that she hadn’t heard from her brother in several days and that he might be in danger from gang violence.

The officers came in contact with the man, who they say was hostile with the officers and threatened them with a pit bull. 

The dog reportedly lunged at one of the officers after the man ordered it to attack. The officer drew his gun and fired, killing the animal. 

The pit bull belonged to Mendiola’s mother, Barbara Sustapia. The man police were coming to talk to was Vincent Rosa, the boyfriend of Mendiola’s sister, she said.

Mendiola said her mother suffered a heart attack that night at the sight of her dog lying dead. She was hospitalized, but is now doing better.

Police say they are investigating criminal charges against Rosa, which may include assault of a law enforcement officer.

An internal investigation into the responding officers’ actions is also being conducted, which is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.

Lt. Tim Scott told the Standard-Examiner after the incident that there was probable cause for the officers to arrest Rosa that night, but that other family members came outside after the shooting and were confrontational with the officers. Police said they left without arresting anyone to de-escalate the situation.

A criminal investigation is ongoing and is close to completion, Scott said. 

Mendiola said she can prove that the officers’ story is fishy because her mother’s home has surveillance cameras that captured the night, though she declined to describe what could be seen in the footage.   

Officers came to Sustaipa’s home a week later to ask for the surveillance tapes, she said. The family refused, and later that day more officers came with a search warrant.

“They tore apart my mother’s home looking for some tapes,” Mendiola said.

Lt. Danielle Croyle confirmed officers went to the home looking for recording equipment that could assist them in the investigation.

The tapes are in the possession of the family’s lawyer, who is preparing their case against Ogden Police, Mendiola said. 

Along with hiring a lawyer, Mendiola said, they are looking at the facts of the case, which they say point to Ogden Police covering up their mistakes.

Chuva was described by her family as a gentle dog that wouldn't even obey commands, let alone a command to attack. 

“From what I saw that night, the facts don’t add up,” Mendiola said.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

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