East Haven Cop Shoots Dog in Front of Children

Police say "it's just a dog."
New Haven Advocate
Jul. 10, 2010

It was an idyllic afternoon in this quiet East Haven neighborhood. At Michael Dadio’s house on George Street, his girlfriend’s kids played in the back yard while his dad mowed the lawn.

Then the cops showed up.

They killed the family dog, tasered Michael Dadio Sr. and then arrested him — all because he didn’t show up to court on DUI charges. (Dadio Sr. was not available for comment.)

This overreaction by two East Haven police officers — in front of children — has upset neighbors on a street where many families own dogs.

“The way this happened was totally reckless,” says Dadio Jr. He says he went to the police to complain and was told, “It’s just a dog.”

The shooting happened in May while the Department of Justice (DOJ) was investigating EHPD on complaints of racial profiling of Latinos. The DOJ’s final report is expected sometime in July.

The sergeant who killed the dog was the same one who signed off on the highly controversial arrest of a priest last year, which ignited national news coverage of complaints from area Latinos and the subsequent DOJ investigation.

Dadio’s story differs from the official police record. (The priest’s account also differed from the police report in that 2009 case.)

According to officer Jason Zullo’s report, on May 22, he drove by the George Street home and “immediately recognized Michael Dadio standing in front of his [son’s] residence.” Zullo knew Dadio had an arrest warrant for skipping court.

(That’s a misdemeanor. According to the state judicial website, Dadio has no convictions.)

Sgt. John Miller and Zullo approached the house.

“Dadio immediately ran from officers in an attempt to elude capture when he saw the police vehicles arrive,” according to the report.

Zullo writes that Dadio ran to the back yard and Miller followed. Zullo went around the other side of the house.

“As officers gave chase, Sgt. Miller was confronted by an aggressive dog/pit bull forcing him to discharge his weapon,” says the report.

The report does not say that the dog chased, lunged at, intimidated or bit either of the officers.

The back door to the house was wide open, says the report, and Dadio Sr. wasn’t seen anywhere in the yard, so officers went inside to look for him and found him “inside a cabinet under the kitchen sink.”

Then they tasered him after shouting at him to comply.

Dadio says there’s no way his dad would fit under the kitchen sink, and, there was no reason to taser him. “He’s a harmless guy. My dad didn’t even know there was a warrant for his arrest.”

Dadio admits that his dad ran from the cops. But that’s because they got out of the police car with their guns drawn, he says.

Dadio was outside next door and says he saw what happened. He says his dad went towards the back of the house, where the children were playing. The family’s two dogs were barking, but are very well trained and both went through obedience school, he says.

The German shepherd was on the back porch barking at the cops, when it was shot in front of the kids, who Dadio estimates were about 25 feet away.

“They could have killed the kids,” says Dadio.

After the shooting and the arrest, Dadio says more cops arrived. They blocked off the street and didn’t let anyone enter the home for hours. Meanwhile, standing in the street, Dadio could hear his dog crying. He was so freaked out and upset, he says, that he left.

The dog bled to death.

The kids were so traumatized, says Dadio, that they wouldn’t sleep at the house for days.

Dadio is planning on filing a lawsuit.

“I’m not expecting any money, but I want something done to the officer. Suspend him or something.”

Neither Miller nor Zullo have been suspended, but an internal investigation is ongoing, says interim chief Gaetano Nappi. Several neighbors filed civilian complaints about the shooting, Nappi confirmed.

“We’d rather not harm anybody,” he says. “If in fact [the shooting] was justifiable, it’s an unfortunate circumstance of us doing our job.”

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