A Minnesota police officer who was bitten by a police dog while pursuing a suspect is suing a county sheriff’s deputy for excessive force in a rare case of one officer suing another.
Champlin police officer Daniel Irish said he was getting out of his squad car in a public cemetery after a vehicle pursuit into Osseo last March when he was attacked by Thor, a K-9 controlled by Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith McNamara, according to a federal lawsuit.
Irish alleged the deputy failed to properly notify officers that he was releasing Thor. The rare officer-to-officer lawsuit comes amid growing concerns with police K-9 deployments, the Star Tribune reported.
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The latest lawsuit states that Irish was unaware a K-9 was involved “until Thor was on him.”
Attorney Andrew Noel, who is representing Irish, said “any reasonable officer” should have known that releasing a K-9 in an area near apartments and a special education center for young adults presented a danger to innocent people.
“This could’ve been any other innocent person in the area that suffered these same injuries,” Noel said Wednesday. “Our mission here is to prevent anything like this from happening again.”
A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday the office could not comment on pending litigation.
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The lawsuit is the most recent legal action taken by Noel and other attorneys at Robins Kaplan LLP against K-9 deployment. In 2017, they sued after a St. Paul K-9 ignored over 10 commands to release a woman who had to be hospitalized. In 2018, another police dog ignored more than a dozen orders to stop an attack, leading St. Paul to restrict K-9 use.
The Hennepin County K-9 policy outlines guidelines for issuing warning announcements before deploying the dogs and recommends the supervisor be notified of the decision otherwise.
“Police dogs are not the discreet, highly trained obedient animals we’re led to believe that they are,” Noel said. “This is a situation where once Deputy McNamara let Thor off leash, Thor was going to bite the first human being he encountered.”
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Irish, who now works for the Brooklyn Park Police Department, has been suffering from gastrointestinal ailments caused by the antibiotics taken to treat a deep skin infection caused by Thor’s bites. He also has suffered emotional trauma, according to the lawsuit.