SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - After police watched their attack dog Vortex rip apart a dozing woman's leg, the cops told its handler, "Severe trauma to the leg? ... Awesome ... you deserve a Slurpee," the woman claims in court.
Katie Hess sued Salt Lake County, the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, Police Chief James Winder and Officer Kevin Barrett, in Federal Court.
Hess claims that she was attacked by the "vicious and aggressive" police dog Vortex, after a night out in suburban Holladay in May 2012.
Hess claims that and a friend, nonparty Gavin DeGraw, called for a taxi from an Arby's restaurant after one of their bicycles broke down. She says the taxi dispatcher told them they could take their bikes in a cab.
But when the cab came, the driver "indicated that he would not allow plaintiff and Gavin DeGraw to put their bikes in the back," according to the complaint.
DeGraw and the driver argued, and "as the taxi driver was leaving, Gavin DeGraw made a derogatory racial comment about the taxi cab driver that appeared to be of foreign and/or Arabian descent," Hess says in the lawsuit.
She adds: "That immediately upon hearing the comment, the driver turned his SUV around and headed towards Gavin DeGraw. Katie Hess describes the taxi driver as a very, very large Arab man.
"The taxi driver thereafter left his vehicle and physically pursued Gavin DeGraw. Both DeGraw and the taxi driver began to exchange blows. During this time, Katie Hess yelled at both men to stop fighting."
The driver got the better of DeGraw and refused to let him up, until "Hess yelled that she was going to take the taxi cab to go get the cops if the taxi driver did not stop," she says in the complaint. "At this point, the taxi driver did get off of DeGraw and released him."
DeGraw told Hess to head home and he would take care of the bikes. But Hess says she heard sirens and decided to wait for DeGraw near a high school.
She adds: "That due to the lateness of the hour, plaintiff became very tired.
"Katie Hess believes she sat waiting for Gavin DeGraw for 20 to 30 minutes.
"According to plaintiff, the next thing she remembers after sitting down and waiting was that a dog barked. Plaintiff noted that almost immediately, a dog came over a wall and attacked her, chewing on her right leg, breaking her leg and ripping her leg apart and opening large gaping wounds.
"Katie Hess screamed at the dog to stop and began using her free leg to try and push the dog away from her. Plaintiff was not initially aware that the dog biting her leg was a police dog.
"At the same time that plaintiff was attacked by the dog, plaintiff recalls that three to four police officers appeared at the area and watched the attack.
"That the officers of the Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake did not immediately request that the dog stop the attack.
"Plaintiff began to yell for the dog to stop and for the officers to stop the dog. That several moments passed before the police officers which were present responded.
"Finally, one of the officers responded by telling plaintiff to lie still.
"Due to the pain and the dog still gripping her leg, plaintiff had a hard time holding still.
"That finally one of the officers came and physically got the dog off Hess.
"Immediately after the dog attack, an officer went to Katie Hess and grabbed her arm, ordering her to stand up. Katie Hess was able to get up onto her left leg and attempted to get up onto her right leg which had been broken, but was in so much pain that she could not bare to put weight on the right leg.
"After plaintiff was not able to stand, due to problems with plaintiff's leg, one of the officers for the Salt Lake County Sheriff and/or the Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake became enraged and yelled at plaintiff to stand up.
"Plaintiff did tell the police officer that 'I am trying to but something is very wrong with my leg.'
"The officer did then grab Hess by her hair and yanked her up on her feet, drug [sic] her up on the grass close to the street, threw her on her stomach, and handcuffed her hands behind her back. ...
"That the officer's actions did further cause plaintiff excruciating pain and further exacerbated or caused additional injuries to plaintiff's leg by causing the ripped flesh to separate, causing pieces of plaintiff's leg to tear loose, causing profuse blood flow and causing damage to ligaments and tendons.
"Plaintiff was bleeding profusely and chunks of her muscle were sticking out. Subsequent to the officer's action pieces of plaintiff's leg became stuck to the inside of plaintiff's jeans.
"One of the police officers/sheriffs ripped plaintiff's jeans off exposing her and further embarrassing, degrading and humiliating her.
"According to the report of the incident furnished by the Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake, DeGraw had already been detained prior to the police dog being deployed." (Citation to exhibit omitted.)
To top it off, Hess claims, Vortex's handler - defendant Officer Barrett - was praised in a dispatch report after the attack.
"Subsequent to the dog bite, the police dispatch report indicates praise to Officer Barrett stating 'you two rock,' 'Wish we had instant photos in here!,' 'Severe trauma to the leg?,' 'Awesome extra treat for Vortex and you deserve a Slurpee!'"
Hess adds: "That under no account of the incident is it alleged that plaintiff was involved in the altercation between DeGraw and the taxi driver."
She says she never fled from officers, was not told she was under arrest, was not armed or reported to be dangerous, and did not assault or harm anyone - nor does any police report allege any of this.
"The only alleged involvement of Hess was to tell the taxi driver and DeGraw to stop fighting. Never did Hess begin to take the taxi. Once the taxi driver got off DeGraw, Hess immediately tried to get away from the taxi driver for fear of more combative conduct and retaliation," the complaint states.
Hess says she suffered a broken leg, tissue damage and emotional trauma.
She seeks $3 million in damages for wrongful arrest, failure to train and excessive force.
She is represented by Douglas Gubler.
Holladay, pop. 26,472 in 2010, is in Salt Lake County.
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