In an interview with the Record last year, Igor Vukobratovic recalled the aftermath of the shooting that killed his family’s dog, Otto.
“He looked at me, and I couldn’t do anything. I was screaming at them, ‘Why would you guys do this?’ I couldn’t believe that they’d just shot my dog,” he told the New Jersey newspaper. “I had to pick him up, he was bleeding, and carry him to the [animal control officer’s] truck. The last thing he saw was me. I was expecting to lose him to old age — not to come home and see him shot in my back yard.”
Otto, a 5-year-old German shepherd, died after the April 2015 incident in Wyckoff, N.J., which unfolded after a police officer responding to a call mistakenly walked up to the wrong house. The officer would claim that Otto lunged at him during the encounter and bit his boot. That prompted the officer to open fire on the dog.
Otto died from the injuries. After the shooting, the local police chief told NJ.com that the officer was “extremely distraught” but had “every right to be prepared to defend himself.”
Now, more than a year after Otto’s death, another member of the Vukobratovic family, Goran Vukobratovic, has filed suit, claiming that he has suffered “great pain, shock and mental anguish” after the dog’s death.
The lawsuit — which names police officer Kyle Ferreira, as well as the Wyckoff Police Department and the Township of Wyckoff, N.J. — was filed in Bergen County Superior Court late last month, NJ.com reports. It seeks damages, and claims that Ferreira, who was reportedly cleared after an internal investigation, wasn’t adequately supervised.
The police department did not immediately respond to an email sent Thursday evening. An attorney for Goran Vukobratovic, who NJ Advance Media describes as Igor’s father, also did not return a telephone message.
“I’m very familiar with the case,” Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney told NJ Advance Media. “However, other than a tort claim notice filed last year as normal procedure when litigation is [threatened], the township has not been served with any updated notice of action.”
Dispatch recordings from the day of the incident help explain how the shooting occurred. A dispatcher put out a report about a possible break-in, which apparently happened days earlier, CBS New York reported. An officer tried to repeat the address back after he heard it, the station reported, but that officer said the wrong house number, 622 instead of 621.
After the shooting, NJ Advance Media obtained the internal affairs report from Wyckoff police, which included statements made to investigators who looked into the matter. In those statements, Ferreira says that after knocking on the home’s door, he started to walk around the property, looking for signs of a burglary.
After walking through an unlocked gate on the right side of the fence, Ferreira told internal affairs that he worked his way around to the back. He didn’t see anything that would indicate a dog lived at the home, he said, but did notice an open window. That’s when he pulled out his gun.
But as Ferreira continued, he said in his statement that he heard “an aggressive barking coming from inside the house which sounded like a larger dog.”
“I quickly stepped back, turned towards the barking, and saw a full-grown German Shepherd jump out the window and start charging at me in an aggressive manner,” he said, according to NJ.com. “At this time he was less than 10 feet from me. I immediately sprinted in the direction of the side gate to try and escape, but only made it to the edge of the patio before the dog attacked me.”
NJ.com reported in 2015 that the family has previously taken issue with the official account of the shooting from the department. A Facebook page about the incident, called “Justice for Otto,” includes a photo album called “evidence,” and the family in May 2015 set up an online fundraising account for the “impending costs of legal aid required to hold the Wyckoff Police Department accountable for needlessly killing the Vukobratovic’s beloved German Shepard, Otto.”
“It is clear the Wyckoff Police Department are not interested in taking responsibility for their actions and there is no recourse for the Vukobratovic’s outside of seeking legal counsel,” stated the fundraising page, which describes Otto as an “obedient family pet” with a “loving, playful, friendly” disposition.