Civil rights claims include shooting of dog by deputies. $800K. Fresno County.


As police search a home for a suspect, plaintiffs' dog allegedly attacks a K9 and is shot by the K9 handler.

The Case

  • Case Name: Veronica Ordaz Gonzalez, Jose Ramos Santiago, Omar Perez and Roberto Perez v. County of Fresno, Deputy Courtney Bush, Deputy Jeffrey Morse, Sergeant James Dunn and Deputy Isaac Cervantes
  • Court and Case Number: Fresno County Superior Court / 18CECG03672
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, March 22, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, October 03, 2018
  • Type of Case: Animal Encounter, Civil Rights
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Jeffrey Hamilton
  • Plaintiffs:
    Veronica Ordaz Gonzalez
    Jose Ramos Santiago
    Omar Perez
    Roberto Perez
  • Defendants:
    County of Fresno
    Deputy Courtney Bush
    Deputy Jeffrey Morse
    Sergeant James Dunn
    Deputy Isaac Cervantes
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $800,000. Deputy Cervantes was found liable for the unjustified shooting death of a dog. Sgt. James Dunn was found liable as to Veronica, only, for violation of the Bane Act. Deputies Courtney Bush and Jeffrey Morse were found not liable.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 15 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 10 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Paboojian, Inc. by Nolan C. Kane and Warren R. Paboojian, Fresno.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Weakley & Arendt PC by James D. Weakley and Leslie M. Dillahunty, Fresno.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Scott DeFoe, police practices.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Clarence Chapman, police practices.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On June 3, 2018, Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Courtney Bush responded to a report of vandalism made by the alleged vandal's parents. The vandalism suspect's mother informed Deputy Bush that the night before, her son, Jesus Ramos, damaged their truck's windshield in the amount of approximately $500. Jesus Ramos was described as 5'3" and 110 pounds. The victims told Deputy Bush that he frequented and possibly lived at 144 S Lind Ave, as the family had seen him there on numerous occasions. Deputy Bush was told that the vandal was violent and used methamphetamine. The family wanted him arrested and were willing to testify against him.

    Fresno County Sheriff Deputies Courtney Bush, Jeffrey Morse, Colleen Santos and Reserve Deputy Moreno-Lopez then proceeded to 144 S. Lind Ave. to try and locate Jesus Ramos. When they arrived at 144 S. Lind Ave., the deputies observed a Hispanic male (later identified as Jacobo), who did not match the description of Jesus Ramos, in the front yard. While the deputies were talking to Jacobo, Jacobo yelled something in Spanish towards the backyard. Deputy Morse observed a large male, 250-275 pounds, come from the backyard, look at the deputies, then run out of sight in the backyard. Also at this time, Deputy Bush saw approximately 10-12 large marijuana plants growing illegally in the backyard.

    Inside 144 S. Lind Ave., at the time, were Veronica Ordaz Gonzalez and her boyfriend, Jose Ramos Santiago, her dad, Roberto Perez, and her brother, Omar Perez. Deputies ordered all occupants out of the house. Plaintiffs and Jacobo were handcuffed and detained in the front yard. Deputies asked permission from Veronica to enter the home to search for Jesus Ramos, who they believed was inside the residence. Veronica did not consent. This was disputed by Sergeant Dunn, who claimed he received consent to search the home from Veronica. The deputies claim that the plaintiffs were handcuffed for officer safety just before the search of the house. There was no documentation of consent or any other witnesses to the alleged consent.

    Deputies searched the home and no one was located. While deputies were searching the home, Veronica and Jose's dog, Scooby, who had been tied up by the deputies, got loose and ran to the backyard where a K9 unit had posted up. The K9 handler, Deputy Cervantes, shot and killed Scooby after Scooby allegedly bit the K9 (police dog) in the leg for two seconds. The K9 suffered no injuries. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs were ordered out of the home at gunpoint, handcuffed and detained. Deputies entered Veronica and Jose's home without a warrant and without consent. Veronica and Jose's dog was unjustifiably shot and killed.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants obtained consent to search the home and shot the plaintiffs’ dog when the dog attacked the deputy’s K9.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress.

  • Death of dog.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: None
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: None
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: None
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: None

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $500,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $7,500

Additional Notes

 None of the deputies were found to have used excessive force nor did they unlawfully detain any of the plaintiffs.