Racine City Hall

Racine City Hall, 730 Washington Ave.

RACINE — The City Council on Tuesday approved a settlement that stemmed from the 2016 killing of a family dog by police during a “no-knock” search warrant.

In a 10-2 vote — with ‘no’ votes from 6th District Alderman Sandy Weidner and 5th District Alderman Steve Smetana — the council approved a total settlement of $10,000 for the Harmon family.

In return, the family’s lawsuit against the city is to be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can not be filed again, and there would be no admission of liability by the City of Racine or the individual officers named in the case.

“The City of Racine supports its police officers, who have a very difficult and potentially dangerous job to do every day,” said City Attorney Scott Letteney. “It is far better to put this case behind us all, in return for this fair settlement, than to allow the case to be a distraction.”

Smetana declined to comment on his “no” vote because the discussions regarding the case had been closed to the public. Weidner said that while she fully understands why her fellow aldermen supported the settlement, she is concerned with the message the decision to settle sends.

“I’m concerned with what settling it would do with the morale of the Police Department,” Weidner said. “When we continue to settle cases as we do, we look like an easy mark for attorneys that will take clients that don’t have a case.”

The Journal Times reached out to the plaintiff’s legal representatives at the Jeff Scott Olson Law Firm in Madison, who stated they have no comment at this time.

A settlement had been reached between city representatives and attorneys for the Harmon family last month but that settlement was rejected on Dec. 4.

Letteney said the settlement approved is not the same settlement the council rejected earlier this month.

City Council rejects proposed settlement over dog killing

The shooting

In November 2016, the Racine Police Department, Racine County Gang Unit and FBI executed a “no-knock” search warrant at the home of Sara and Joseph Harmon. Authorities wanted to question the Harmons’ son regarding a shots-fired incident.

When police broke down the door, they reportedly scared the family’s 2-year-old English bulldog, Sugar, who fled to a bedroom. There, Sugar was shot as many as five times. Police allegedly took the dog’s body, but blood was left on the room’s bed and walls.

The family said police told them it is protocol to kill dogs when a search warrant is executed.

The search did not uncover any illegal activity and no arrests were made.

The Harmons later sued the city and four police officers in federal court, claiming their rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and excessive force were violated when their dog was killed during the execution of the warrant.

According to police records, Sugar was the 13th dog shot from 2012 through 2016 while a search warrant was being executed.

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Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.


Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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