A woman claims a police dog owned by the Spokane Police Department bit her without provocation and wouldn’t release despite being ordered to do so by Officer Dan Lesser, according to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Justice.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court last week on behalf of Natasha Hernandez.
According to the lawsuit, she was staying at the Liberty Motel on North Division Street with her children on March 8, 2013, when she saw two people breaking into the Spokane Discount store next door. Hernandez called 911 to report the burglary.
A short time later, she was walking from the motel’s laundry room with a basket of laundry and set it down to rearrange her load. Lesser and the police dog, Rav, had responded to her report and were searching for suspects. Without warning, the dog rounded the corner and bit her in the stomach, the lawsuit says.
The dog would not release when Lesser commanded him to, the suit claims. Lesser grabbed Rav in an effort to pull him off Hernandez but ended up dragging Hernandez.
Jeffry Finer, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said city records show that Rav had previously bitten the wrong person in training and also had to be corrected for failing to release when commanded to.
“It’s documented that he doesn’t always stop biting you,” Finer said. “Given Rav’s background, it’s kind of foreseeable that this was going to happen.”
Finer said he filed the lawsuit after the city didn’t respond to a claim seeking damages. Hernandez is asking for $38,000 for physical and emotional harm.
“This isn’t a big-dollar case,” he said. “This is about the dog’s training, the handler’s decision and the city’s failure to respond. They knew there were problems.”
City of Spokane spokesman Brian Coddington said the city is reviewing the lawsuit. “We don’t typically comment on active litigation,” he said.
Said Finer, “She called in a report, got bit for her trouble and then treated like she did something wrong. This lady was really minding her own business.”
Jeffry Finer says his office did not file a claim seeking damages with the City of Spokane, so there was no failure on the city’s part to respond.
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