EUGENE, Ore. – A homeless woman is suing the city of Eugene in federal court, saying police officers allowed her dog to die in her car after they violated her civil rights while detaining and arresting her two years ago.
The Eugene Register-Guard reports Tamala Bemis’ lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Eugene, seeks a ruling backing her claim that police violated her rights, along with unspecified monetary damages.
Eugene police stopped Bemis while she was walking along a sidewalk Oct. 5, 2015, and subsequently arrested her on warrants.
The lawsuit says officers stopped her without reasonable suspicion, detained her for an unreasonably long period of time, and then subjected her to unlawful search and seizure. The suit also includes a negligence claim.
According to the lawsuit, Bemis told police she had left her 13-year-old red heeler, Magic, inside a nearby parked vehicle. She says she asked police to contact her brother, fearing the dog would die from overheating or a lack of food and water.
She spent the next two weeks in jail, and upon release from custody, returned to her car and found Magic dead inside the vehicle, the suit says.
The lawsuit says Bemis complained to police, then later refused a $700 check that police Capt. Sam Kamkar offered her to settle the matter.
Police spoke publicly about the incident two years ago. They said at the time that officers stopped Bemis because she looked like a person who had been seen riding a bicycle from the scene of a burglary. Investigators later determined Bemis was not involved in the break-in.
Police shared with the media an in-car video in which Bemis is heard telling an officer about her car and the dog. At one point, Bemis tells the officer, “Never mind. She’s old anyway.”
Bemis’ lawyer, Jeff Price of Santa Monica, Calif., said he thinks Bemis’ comment about the dog being old is “of no importance” to the case, which he says is “about obtaining justice.”
A Eugene police spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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