GAINESVILLE, Fla. (CN) – Without a word of warning, a Gainesville policeman sicced a police dog on a 10-year-old black child who was picking up his mother’s mail, and when the mom complained, the cop said the boy “shouldn’t have run,” the mother claims in court.
Cheron Hampton-Bates and her son Bryce Bates sued Gainesville and its Police Cpl. Timothy Durst, in Federal Court.
The mother says Durst was responding to a 911 call from a mentally ill woman who was known for filing false reports, and that Durst chased her son even though he did not match the description of the alleged “suspects” provided by the caller.
“On or about June 16, 2010, at 3:20 p.m., plaintiff Bates was riding his bicycle through his apartment complex in the City of Gainesville, heading through the parking lot to his mailbox to get the family’s mail for his mother,” the complaint states.
“At the time of the incident, Bates was 10 years old, attended the fifth grade, stood less than 5 feet tall and weighed approximately 95 pounds. He is an African American.
“While Bates was riding his bicycle to the mailbox, several police cars pulled in to the apartment complex at emergency speed. The officers were responding to a 911 call from a mentally ill woman who suffered from delusions. This woman had a history of calling 911 so frequently that she was known to dispatch to be a mentally ill caller whose reports were unreliable. On this day, her reported complaint was that three Hispanic teenagers, two males and one female, were inside her apartment in the process of committing a burglary.
“Prior to the date of the incident, Bates had been instructed by his mother to come inside if he saw police in the complex. Accordingly, when Bates saw a police car speeding toward him, he dropped his bicycle in fear and ran to the door of his apartment, yelling ‘Mom!’
“Corporal Durst stopped his patrol vehicle and pursued Bates on foot but gave no verbal commands.
“Shortly thereafter, Corporal Durst released his police canine and commanded it to apprehend plaintiff. Pursuant to the canine’s training, it had been taught to apprehend suspects by biting them and then holding, or, if need be, continuously reestablishing the bite until the canine is removed from the suspect by its police handler.
“As he reached the door to his apartment, Bates was overtaken by the canine which, in accordance with its training, bit Bates repeatedly as he struggled in fear to get away.
“Bates’ mother had left the exterior door to her home open and saw the attack. She tried repeatedly to open the screen door to rescue her son but could not intervene because the canine had forced himself and Bates against the door, which was designed to swing outward.
“Bates screamed as the canine bit him, exclaiming ‘I didn’t do anything!’; ‘I wasn’t bad!’; and ‘I don’t want to die!’
“The police canine continued to bite Bates until Corporal Durst arrived and physically pulled the canine off of him.
“Bates’ mother was upset and screamed throughout the attack. When she saw Corporal Durst a few seconds later, she confronted him, asking why he put his dog on her son. Corporal Durst replied, ‘He shouldn’t have run.'”
Hampton-Bates says her son did not look like the suspect Durst was seeking. She claims that after the dog attack, the police determined that no crime had occurred and the call was “another false report by a known mentally ill person.”
The police dog bit her son 14 times, the mother says. She claims the police had no probable cause to believe he was involved in any criminal activity.
She says the city failed to train its officers and establish adequate canine handling procedures, to avoid excessive force and serious and permanent injuries from dog bites.
She and her son seek compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, battery and infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Robert Rush with Rush & Glassman.