Footage has emerged showing the moment a Minnesota woman was attacked by a police dog while innocently taking out the trash. The victim has filed a lawsuit against the officer handling the canine.
The video, which was captured by an officer’s body cam, shows Officer Thaddeus P. Schmidt walking a German Shepherd on a leash near a dumpster in the city of St. Paul while he and his colleagues were in search of suspects implicated in a nearby home burglary.
The dog is not initially seen in the video, nor is Desiree Collins, the victim. However, her screaming can soon be heard behind the dumpster.
An officer approaches the dumpster and discovers the terrified victim. “There’s a lady,” he says.
Collins, 52, is seen on the ground while the German shepherd is clutching her right arm with his mouth. As she screams, one of the officers tells her “you’re fine.”
The dog receives repeated calls from the officers to release Collins’ arm. However, the canine ignores the commands.
“Please help me!” a terrified Collins tells the officers. The dog finally releases its grip, and a stunned Collins asks “what did I do to him?”
“It’s not your fault,” the officers reply. “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Collins filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Schmidt, who was walking the dog on a 20-foot leash – a violation which resulted in him being suspended from work for a day following the incident.
The suit argues that Schmidt violated Collins’ Fourth Amendment right to be free of excessive force and unreasonable seizure. It states that she suffered multiple bites to her right arm and a bite wound to her lower left leg, and that she received treatment for her injuries at a nearby hospital. It also states that her injuries required a return visit to the hospital and outpatient care.
It acknowledges that Schmidt previously made two calls for people to announce themselves or risk being bitten. However, it states that “no reasonable officer would have believed that a warning given at this location, sheltered by homes and trees, and at this time would have been effective to anyone outside his immediate vicinity, including people more than a block away on the opposite side of the residential area, like Collins.”
Collins is suing for punitive damages and changes in the training, policies, and procedures used by the St. Paul Police Department when it comes to canines.
“What you have here is a completely innocent person taking out their garbage… and a K-9 simply wasn’t controlled,” Andrew Noel, one of Collins’ lawyers, told the StarTribune. “It should never have happened.” The attorney said that Collins is “struggling emotionally with this incident.”
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a Thursday statement that “what happened to Ms. Collins was a terrible accident that should not have occurred.”
“I am sorry it happened and that she was injured,” he added. “As a department, we wish we could go back and do things differently. Unfortunately, we can't…”
It’s not the first time that Schmidt and the same German Shepherd – identified as 5 1/2 year old Gabe – have gotten into trouble. According to the suit, Gabe bit another innocent person while walking on a long leash just last year. Schmidt received “supervisory counseling” on leash handling following the incident.
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