ST. PAUL, Minn. - A St. Paul woman has filed a lawsuit against a police officer after she was attacked and injured by his K-9 partner.
Desiree Collins filed the suit against officer Thaddeus Schmidt in connection with an incident that took place outside her home on the 600 block of Van Buren Avenue the morning of September 23. In the documents prepared by attorney Bob Bennet, the 52-year-old Collins alleges that she was deprived of her civil rights by Schmidt and his K-9 Gabe as they responded to reports of a burglary in progress in her neighborhood.
The lawsuit alleges that Schmidt had Gabe on a 20-foot lead as he joined the search for two male suspects, neither of whom were dressed in clothing like Collins was wearing as she took out the garbage to a dumpster in the alley behind her home. Documents claim that the officer and Gabe did not give any verbal warnings to innocent people who may have been in their path as they searched for suspects.
WARNING: The video includes graphic content
Eventually, the suit maintains that Gabe came around a dumpster, saw Collins and attacked her while out of Schmidt's view and control due to the long lead being used, literally knocking her out of her shoes. The victim says Gabe first latched on to her left leg and then her right arm, refusing to let go. Two 'cover' officers helping in the search for the burglary suspects tried to get the dog to let go, but he would not. The attack allegedly lasted for 30 seconds before Schmidt was physically able to remove Gabe from Collins' arm.
Video and photos captured on police body cameras and submitted to the court show significant injuries to both Collins' left leg and 'good' right arm. She is already missing her left hand as a result of being severely burned as a child.
“My heart breaks when I watch this video," said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell in a released statement. "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,” Axtell concluded.
Collins claims she suffered both significant physical and psychological injuries from the attack.
The lawsuit maintains Schmidt violated and deprived Collins of her civil rights to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizure. It asks for punitive damages to be determined by a jury, attorneys fees and changes to the St. Paul Police K-9 training program.