Questions have been raised with the way a then 18 year old Florida teen, Jared Lemay was treated at the hands of cops after responding to a 2012 mother’s 911 call that her son was exhibiting suicidal signs.
The call would leave the teen bloodied and bruised, his face badly mauled and permanently disfigured at the hands of a K-9 police dog during a July, 2012 incident which has now led to Lemay’s family launching a lawsuit citing civil rights violations.
According to a troubling report via the Herald-Tribune police investigations tell of North Fork Police officer Michael Dietz having arrived on the scene ‘plotting’ to use force against the vulnerable teen.
Told a dispatch at the time by Dietz’s superior, K-9 unit leader Keith Bush, ‘COME GET YOUR BITE’.
Nevertheless North Folk police department have stood by their team, saying their officers were cleared to use force ‘if need be’.
Reiterated the police department in a statement: ‘We have reviewed all current legal authority and have found our K-9 handlers and the animals which we rely on to keep our community safe, to have acted in accordance within the law and in keeping with best practices’.
At the time of the incident, the teen was wanted on a violation of probation for a non violent crime. Distraught and unhinged the teen made a noose which was spotted by the teen’s sister who in turn called their mother who then called police.
Told the mother: ‘My daughter … found a noose hanging in the garage,’
Referencing her son, the mother added: ‘I’m afraid he might try to hurt himself.‘
From there, Bush dispatched his fellow K-9 unit officer Dietz to the scene, with the message ‘COME GET UR BITE’.
Minutes later, Bush inexplicably followed up on the initial message, adding ‘IM GONNA TAKE UR BITE IF U DONT HURRY UP’.
With police having now arrived and the teen fearing for the worse, Jared Lemay dashed off into the garage to hide in a trash can. Soon after Jared Lemay was set upon by Dietz’s K-9, with the cop insisting that the garage the teen had run into was dark and that the situation warranted an element of danger.
In his suit, Jared Lemay asserts police fabricating statements that the garage was dark in a bid to cover up the attack which left him needing a series of stitches and incapable of eating solid food for over a week.
Told Lemay: ‘They made it seem like I was posing a threat to them and saying they could not see because the lights weren’t on,’
‘I watched it flick on through the cracks of the trash can.’
After turning on the lights, Lemay tells of one of the officers opening the lid of the trash can, seeing him inside and then pushing the can over.
Reiterated Lemay: ‘I remember hitting the ground on my hands to brace myself from falling, and I looked up at them, and I went to say ‘OK, OK,’ and the guy sicced the dog on me as soon as I started to talk,’
‘I remember (the dog’s) mouth coming toward me and latching onto my face. He literally drug me out of the trash can,’
‘After the dog bit me a second time, one of the police officers put his knee in the back of my head and handcuffed me.’
Photos of Lemay after the attack show him bleeding profusely from the nose and the mouth and bruised gashes to his left shoulder blade.
While Lemay suffered in the hospital after the mauling, Dietz was applauded by his fellow officers.
An internal memorandum led to the K-9 team being cited for using ‘unprofessional’ inter-departmental communications, nevertheless both Bush and Dietsch escaped any punitive action against them.
With the case now up for trial, experts contend that the facts of the case show evidence of a premeditated attack and excessive use of force from the officers.
Charles Mesloh, a former K-9 officer and now a leading researcher on police use of force in K-9 units, called the attack ‘horrifying’ and says the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate the incident.
Told Mesloh: ‘This is people deciding in advance deciding how they’re going to hurt someone,’
‘In my opinion it should be investigated by the Department of Justice. I have defended agencies accused of civil rights violations in the past, and I have never seen anything that has approached what I have seen in this report.’
Referencing the incident, Andrea Flynn Mogensen, a member of the legal panel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, says the organization considers the incident to ‘be a clear case of excessive use of force and improper use of police dogs’.
Told Morgenson: ‘It’s tantamount to a planned use of force. If you’re on the way to the scene and your information is that the subject is depressed and suicidal with no history of violence it’s really not reasonable to plan a use of force on the way there’.
According to the Herald Tribune, K-9 dogs in the department attacked more people from 2010 to 2014 than the neighboring municipalities of Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Venice and Punta Gorda combined during the same time.
In the three years since the attack, Dietz has left the department after being arrested for allegedly attacking his girlfriend when she tried to break up with him. Bush is now the department’s senior K-9 handler and his dog has bitten 25 times since 2012.