December 07, 2017 06:30 PM
A normal morning chore for 52-year-old Desiree Collins turned into a nightmare when a St. Paul police K-9 latched onto her right arm for nearly 30 seconds, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Collins is suing St. Paul police officer Thaddeus Schmidt, the K-9's handler.
According to the lawsuit, Collins was taking the trash out to a dumpster behind her home on Van Buren Avenue on the morning of Sept. 23.
At the same time, the court filing explains police were looking for two suspects they believed were involved in a home burglary about three blocks away.
Body camera video captured the search for those suspects. The K-9 led officers to the alley behind Van Buren Avenue. The video shows the K-9 wander behind the dumpster.
Seconds later, a woman can be heard screaming.
The video shows the K-9 clamped down on Collins' right arm for nearly 30 seconds. She was unable to push the dog off because her right hand had been amputated as a child.
When the K-9 lets go, you can hear a woman on the video ask "What did I do to him?"
The officers responded, saying it wasn't her fault and that she was "just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Andrew Noel is representing Collins in the federal lawsuit. He said he's watched the video a dozen times, and it never gets easier to witness what she went through.
"Really, what sunk in to me is how long it took that dog to let her go," Noel said while watching the body camera footage Thursday. "It shows the terrifying nature of the event, and really an up close look at how this had to have impacted Ms. Collins."
Noel argues the video they obtained shows specific training failures on the part of the department and the K-9 handler.
"One is improper control of the leash and the other is insufficient warnings," Noel said. "When you combine those things, innocent people can get hurt."
The lawsuit also claims the K-9 didn't respond to Schmidt's commands.
"It shows that possibly there's a need for training refreshers," Noel said.
Following the lawsuit, St. Paul police chief Todd Axtell released the following statement:
"My heart breaks when I watch this video. What happened to Ms. Collins was a terrible accident that should not have occurred. I am sorry it happened and that she was injured. As a department, we wish we could go back and do things differently. Unfortunately, we can't.
"What we can do is apologize and take responsibility, offer support and compassion, and learn from the incident so we can continue to work to prevent it from happening to anyone else."
Following an internal affairs investigation, a spokesperson for the department said Schmidt was given a one-day suspension and was sent to an intensive, month-long training program with the K-9.
The department also said every patrol officer would receive training in December on how to respond to incidents where a K-9 is used.
Updated: December 07, 2017 06:30 PM
Created: December 07, 2017 05:52 PM
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