ST. LOUIS COUNTY ( - Angela Zorich says she remembers the April day in 2014 like it was yesterday.

“I saw them and they're just pouring in, they're covered head to toe, they got helmets, they're like military style," said Zorich.

Her life forever changed after she says the St. Louis County Police Department’s SWAT team came with a no-knock warrant for an unpaid gas bill.

"Why is this cop able to call in a SWAT team because I didn't have gas service at my house?" said Zorich.

She recalls SWAT members kicking in her front door, before firing at her pit bull.

"They put me and my son on our knees to watch her die. The officer squatted over her while she was dying with the search warrant, and he said, ‘You know why we're here?’ and I said, ‘No I don't know.’ When he said, ‘We’re here because your gas is off.’ I lost it," Zorich said.

The lead officer in the SWAT raid is a part of the department’s Problem Properties Unit, which goes after neglected properties in St. Louis County.

Zorich’s attorney says police were tipped off by one of her neighbors for not having her gas on.

"There is a disturbing lack of oversight," said Dobson.

Dobson says the lead officer fabricated a story to a judge and fellow SWAT members, leading them to believe Zorich’s sons were highly violent, to get the no-knock warrant issued.

Dobson says that warrant was executed just two hours after it was signed.

"No evidence was going to be destroyed, you're not going to flush the gas meter down the toilet," said Dobson.

During the trial, St. Louis County argued Zorich’s pit bull charged at SWAT members. However, pictures of the dog presented by the defense showed the pit bull was shot in the back.

A police shooting expert testified the way the dog was shot did not match the police narrative.

"Their claim was that it was really unsafe for me to not have gas service at my house, so you bring a SWAT team and you start firing at my poor dog," said Zorich.

Dobson says the unreasonable search violated Zorich’s 4th amendment rights and believes the St. Louis County’s $750,000 settlement is a way to head off trouble.

“I think it was a recognition that they felt it was a significant possibility that the jury was going to return verdicts against them," said Dobson.

"They took away my peace I have no sense of security," said Zorich.

St. Louis County says they’ve made changes to their policy regarding the threat level used when conducting search warrants.

They say they’ve also made changed to their operational procedures when applying for search warrants.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved

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