More lawsuits to follow after New Iberian family awarded $75,000 following deputy's shooting of dog

By John Breslin | Apr 20, 2018

LAFAYETTE - Two other lawsuits involving law enforcement officers shooting dogs allegedly without cause have been filed by the attorney for owners awarded $75,000 after an Iberia Parish Sheriff's deputy killed their dog.

Another likely to be filed soon, said Alyson Vamvoras-Antoon, who represented a father and son after their dog, a 2-and-a-half-year-old Presa Canario used for breeding, was shot in the eye and killed in 2015.

Teddy Sonnier and his son, Brance, of New Iberia, were awarded the money in a settlement with Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and Deputy Lucas Plauche, who shot the dog. Neither admits liability, according to the agreement between the parties.

"There is no way to bring the dog back, and the only other remedy is monetary; that is all the law gives us," Vamvoras-Antoon told the Louisiana Record.

Alyson Vamvoras-Antoon  

"(They) were wronged and the dog should not have been shot. Hopefully it will not happen again, which would be mine and (their) goal. I do not want to have to file this type of case again."

Teddy Sonnier, 58, told the Associated Press that he and his son sued for breach of their constitutional rights in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana "in the hopes of maybe making them think twice before they did this to another dog."

"It was never about money for me and no money would ever bring my dog back," he wrote in an email following the announcement of the settlement.

Vamvoras-Antoon is handling three more cases where the plaintiffs claim police shot their dogs without cause. Two have been filed in Beauregard and Evangeline parishes.

The attorney said the credibility of Plauche and Ackal, who claimed in a filing the dog was leaping toward the deputy when it was shot, was undermined by the actions of the deputy that day, particularly as it was "pretty much admitted" that a body camera was "deliberately turned off."

Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna, in a report on a motion for summary judgment by the defendants, detailed what happened on Aug. 28, 2015.

 Plauche's body camera shows him talking with another deputy, and Tank running about and barking, all while remaining in the plaintiffs' yard, the report says.

"On the video, Tank never growls, snarls, or makes any aggressive movements toward the officers," the report states.

"After approximately twenty minutes, the video was shut off. It is undisputed that, after he had been on the scene for approximately an hour, and after the body camera was turned off, Corporal Plauche discharged his service weapon and shot Tank in the left eye, killing him."

Three other deputies and a dog handler equipped with a catch pole were on scene at the time.

Plauche was fired later the same day for "untruthfulness" in connection with an unrelated action.

Ackal has faced numerous lawsuits during his more than decade-long tenure in office, and was acquitted in 2016 following federal criminal accusations that he ordered the beating of prisoners in the parish jail and then organized a cover-up. Ten deputies pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

Ackal's office also recently settled a lawsuit filed by the estate of Victor White, who died of a gunshot wound while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car in March, 2014. A coroner ruled he shot himself in the chest, but a federal magistrate judge said the manner of his death could not be "conclusively established." 

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