A federal appeals court on Thursday declined to grant qualified immunity to an Alabama police officer who shot and killed a man “without warning” for failing to show identification after he attempted to help a stray dog his family found in a parking lot.
Robert Earl Lawrence was shot in the stomach by Dothan Police Sergeant Adrianne Woodruff and he bled out on the pavement “on the next to last day of the year” in 2014. His three young children and his girlfriend were in the car–screaming while it happened.
Prior to his death and altercation with police, Lawrence, reportedly a sovereign citizen, was just trying to help the dog his family found near the local Walmart by taking it to the Dothan Animal Shelter.
But Lawrence’s attempt to help quickly went askew.
“The receptionist told Lawrence that they accepted dogs only from residents of Houston County,” the court notes. “He told her that he was from nearby Geneva County but had found the dog in Houston County. She agreed to take the dog but asked for his identification. He refused to provide it, claiming that being required to do so would violate his federal privacy rights.”
A brief argument ensued and Woodruff entered the room–reiterating the shelter’s policy about accepting strays and advising Lawrence to fill out an intake form. He declined and left the shelter, “carrying the dog with him,” saying he would just leave the animal on the road.
Woodruff followed Lawrence out and warned him that dumping the dog would be considered a crime. She also copied down his tag number–in line with a policy for people who threaten to dump animals the shelter refuses to take in. As Lawrence got into his car, Woodruff grabbed him from behind and said “You’re not leaving.”