South Carolina Libertarian Party Condemns Greenville County Sheriff’s Department

Chico the Dog

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (August 6, 2017) – In a unanimous vote, the South Carolina Libertarian Party during their monthly meeting on Saturday adopted a resolution that “condemns the Greenville County Sheriff and his office for failing to act swiftly and justly in the matter involving the recent execution of a family pet on private property under the Color of Law.”

Marissa Gilliland’s dog “Chico” was shot and killed on July 24th by a deputy who was serving a warrant at a neighbor’s house. Although the deputy alleges that the dog was approaching aggressively, Gilliland says her dog was very friendly and was neither growling nor barking as he approached the deputy. She also says most of the shots, including the one that ultimately killed Chico, were fired after he was already running away. The Greenville County Sheriff’s department claims to have opened an investigation, but despite multiple requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, details of the investigation, along with any body camera footage which could corroborate the deputy’s claims, are being withheld from the public, shielding both the department and the deputy from scrutiny and accountability.

“Puppycide,” as it has come to be known, is a national problem in which police officers routinely kill household dogs with impunity—another in a long list of egregious double-standards from which police benefit at the expense of the people whom they claim to “serve and protect.” Due to poor reporting practices, the number of dogs killed by police is difficult to ascertain, but conservative estimates from the Department of Justice put the number at 25 to 30 every day. Data collected by indicate, however, that the actual number is probably much higher.

Laird Minor, the SCLP’s representative from Greenville, read a statement during Saturday’s meeting pointing out that the deputy should be subject to civil suit if he did indeed shoot Chico while the dog was trying to flee, but cautioned against passing judgment on this deputy before body camera footage is released. Minor went on to say, “Unfortunately, even if he was 100% wrong the deputy will probably be immune to civil suit. Judges have created the doctrine of ‘qualified immunity’ which is almost always invoked by the courts. That is the bigger problem here, because qualified immunity is entirely court-made doctrine; there is no statutory basis for it. It needs to be reined in, and that will require legislation (which the [law enforcement] community will strongly oppose). But even if it's not, any officer not wearing a functioning body camera should be denied the protection of this doctrine.”

Matt Wavle, Chairman of the Greenville County Libertarian Party, is organizing a protest and, along with several other members of the party, plans to bring this before an upcoming meeting of the Greenville County Council meeting.

Gilliland, distraught since the incident, has been unable to provide much comment other than, “My poor baby didn’t deserve this y’all. He was so sweet and smart. He loved everyone.”