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Jury Rules Against Tenn. Trooper for Injuring Man at Traffic Stop in which Family Dog was Killed

March 07, 2008  | 

A federal jury awarded $9,100 to a North Carolina man who was injured by a Tennessee state trooper during a traffic stop. The man's dog was also shot and killed by police during the incident.

The jury ruled that Highway Patrol Sgt. David Bush used excessive force when restraining Justin Smoak of Columbus, N.C., during a 2003 traffic stop near Cookeville.

Smoak and his family were on vacation in Tennessee when they were mistakenly identified as robbery suspects and pulled over by troopers and Cookeville police.

An in-car video system recorded the stop. The video was widely distributed on the Internet.

Before the dog, Patton, was shot and killed, Smoak told the officers to close the door to his car so the dog would not get out. They did not do so. Patton, a 55-pound mixed-breed bulldog, got out of the car and was shot and killed by Cookeville police officer Eric Hall.

Smoak, who was in handcuffs, reacted to the shooting, got up and was forced back to the ground. That action injured his knee and was the grounds for the lawsuit.

The Smoaks settled with the city of Cookeville for $77,500 for the loss of their dog.

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