Steven Seagal and Arizona authorities deny that a puppy was killed during a raid of a home that was suspected to have been used to raise roosters for illegal cockfighting.
Jesus Sanchez Llovera, a 30-year-old man who was arrested during the incident in Laveen, Arizona, had made the accusation in a notice of claim he had recently filed against the action star and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. Seagal, 59, participated in the operation, which was filmed for his A&E reality show, "Steve Seagal: Lawman."
Llovera is claiming humiliation and emotional distress and seeks a total of $100,000 in damages. He says he will settle for $25,000 from both the actor and Sheriff Joe Arpaio if they apologize for the incident. Llovera wants Seagal to make his apology in person, in front of his children, who he says were traumatized after "the shooting and killing of their beloved dog."
Maricopa County Sherif's Office said the allegation is "completely without merit" and that Seagal has received harassing calls about the incident following recent media reports.
"The sheriff and Seagal, along with numerous deputies and posse volunteers who were present at the March 9th raid ... say no dog was even injured, much less killed, during the operation," the sheriff's office said in a statement to OnTheRedCarpet.com on Friday, September 2.
Seagal, a longtime supporter of the animal rights group PETA, has not commented publicly. The sheriff's office said the actor considering a defamation lawsuit against Llovera and his lawyer that he is "outraged by the lies and the media attention they are getting."
"I've been called a lot of things in my career, some of them not so kind," it quoted Seagal as saying. "But to be labeled an animal abuser is beyond the pale and that is simply a role I will not accept."
Llovera denies that cockfighting occurred on his property and says he raised roosters "for show." He says 100 of them were killed during the raid and that authorities used two armored trucks and a tank to smash through a gate into his yard and that at least 30 SWAT personnel, dressed in riot gear and armed with handguns or rifles, rushed his home. Llovera says he was unarmed.
The sheriff's department said "no firearm was discharged during the course of this operation." It added that "a dog was present on Jesus Llovera's property when deputies and SWAT team members, of whom Seagal was one, entered the premises with a search warrant to arrest Llovera on cockfighting charges and seize all evidence pertaining to the crime."
Llovera said Seagal distracted his chickens by deploying explosives and then commandeered a sheriff's office tank and crashed through an iron gate on his property.
He said that he was removed from the building and then saw a barrage of local media outlets. Producers of Seagal's show then asked him to sign a release form so they could use the footage they had captured on the program, Llovera said, adding that he refused. He said he was subjected to a "humiliation of a very public arrest" and then interrogated for about an hour and a half.
Llovera's cockfighting charge was dismissed in April but he still faces a charge of possession of steroids, which he denies. The sheriff's office say the drugs were located in a refrigerator, which was situated not far from five puppies, who were found laying on a piece of cut carpeting in the corner of a room.
Seagal rose to fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s with his roles in action films such as "Above The Law," "Under Siege" and its 1995 sequel. He also appeared in the movies "Executive Decision" in 1996. In addition to "Steven Seagal: Lawman," which debuted in 2009, the actor starred in the series "Elijah Kane" earlier this year.