Champlin police officer sues Hennepin County deputy over K9 bite, infection

A Champlin police officer who suffered bites from a K9 and subsequent complications from a prescribed antibiotic last year is now suing the dog’s handler, a Hennepin County deputy.

According to the civil lawsuit filed in federal court, Champlin Police Officer Daniel Irish and Hennepin County Deputy Keith McNamara both responded to a call to pursue a suspect who had crashed and fled into St. Vincent Cemetery in Osseo the afternoon of March 22.

The document states that McNamara arrived at the scene, spotted a squad car with flashing lights, and deployed his K9, Thor, “without warning” to track the suspect.

The deputy allegedly wrote in a report that he “did not give K9 warnings as we got closer to the suspect due to it being very loud with sirens,” adding that he tried to air a warning over the radio after he let Thor loose but couldn’t because of the “high volume of air traffic.”

Thor was trained to “attack whichever human being he encountered first,” the complaint alleges, and Irish, whose squad car was parked ahead of where McNamara let the dog loose, didn’t know there was a K9 in the area “until Thor was on him.”

Irish described getting attacked as soon as he opened the door to his squad.

This image taken from Champlin Police Officer Daniel Irish’s body-worn camera shows Hennepin County K9 Thor lunging toward the officer as he opens the door to his squad car on March 22, 2022. (Champlin Police Department via U.S. District Court of Minnesota)

Thor bit Irish’s arm and legs as Irish struggled to get him off. The complaint alleges McNamara was far behind and was “futilely yelling at Thor” to let Irish go; the dog did not relinquish Irish until McNamara caught up and redirected him toward the suspect, who had already run out of the cemetery.

Eventually, Thor apprehended the suspect, but not before Irish had suffered “numerous penetrating puncture wounds” on his left forearm, according to the lawsuit.

At the hospital, Irish received a tetanus shot and was prescribed the antibiotic Augmentin. The lawsuit claims this antibiotic purged Irish’s digestive system of “good” bacteria and allowed the harmful bacterium C. difficile to thrive, causing serious bowel inflammation stemming from an infection.

Over the course of the next few months, doctors gave Irish more antibiotics to manage the C. difficile, and while the bacterial infection had subsided, he still experienced persistent digestive problems that allegedly cut into his ability to work.

On top of the lingering digestive issues, Irish claims he suffered “mental and emotional harm” from the K9 attack and underwent counseling.

The lawsuit alleges McNamara’s actions under color of law amounted to a violation of Irish’s Fourth Amendment right against excessive force and unreasonable seizure.

“McNamara subjected Irish to these deprivations either maliciously or by acting with reckless disregard for whether his rights would be violated,” the lawsuit states.

Irish is asking for compensation for medical expenses and loss of wages, along with damages for physical and mental harm.

A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the pending litigation.