Claim filed against Port Angeles in police dog attack

Claim filed against Port Angeles in police dog attack

PORT ANGELES — Bogey’s bite has triggered a $2.74 million claim for damages against his owner, the city of Port Angeles.

The attorney for the man mistakenly bitten by a police dog expects the case to go to federal court in December in Tacoma as a lawsuit.

Bogey, a 5-year-old German shepherd on the Port Angeles police force since spring 2013, was helping officers look for a crime suspect Feb. 27 when he bit Eric Edmiston, now 54, of Port Angeles.

The attack occurred in Edmiston’s East Third Street home while he stood in a doorway with his 12-year-old son in the room, according to the police report.

Bogey was on the trail of a suspected car thief, who was not apprehended.

During the search, the dog ended up on the deck of Edmiston’s home and subsequently bit Edmiston in the right thigh, according to the police report.

Edmiston was treated for 28 puncture wounds, some “almost down to the bone,” said Port Angeles lawyer Rich McMenamin, representing Edmiston.

McMenamin’s client is seeking $36,792 in medical damages and $2.7 million in general damages. McMenamin said general damages cover pain and suffering from the attack.

Edmiston, who would not be interviewed for this article, has returned to work, McMenamin said Friday.

He underwent treatment for months after the wounds became infected, according to the claim. Treatment included surgery and use of a vacuum-assisted closure device, known as a wound VAC.

Edmiston is not being treated now, although his agility remains compromised eight months after the attack, McMenamin added.

Chief Brian Smith gave Bogey a vote of confidence Friday, saying he remains on duty.

“Bogey is a very reliable, well-trained dog with an expert handler,” Smith said.

Edmiston and police have different versions of the midafternoon Feb. 27 incident.

Edmiston told the Peninsula Daily News in March that he and his son, Aaron, were watching a movie at about 2:30 p.m. after mowing the lawn and stacking firewood when they heard a dog making noise outside.

The door was shut but not latched, Edmiston said, adding it did not close completely unless dead-bolted.

“We heard a dog on the deck. We thought it was the neighbor dog and we got up to yell at it,” he said in the interview.

When he and his son reached the door, Edmiston said, he pushed his son back and placed his hand on the latch.

He said he opened it slightly and then he tried to close it when he saw a “black blur.”

He said a large German shepherd pushed the door open and clamped onto his leg.

“I had opened the door, saw the dog coming and pushed the door shut — but it doesn’t completely shut — and the dog pushed it open. I pushed Aaron away, and the dog bit my leg,” Edmiston said in March.

“My son was screaming. The dog was snarling.”

But police say that after Edmiston opened the door a crack, he did not heed an entreaty by Bogey’s handler, Officer Allen Brusseau, to go back inside the house.

According to police reports, Edmiston instead opened the door more, and Bogey bit him.

Edmiston said he did not hear Brusseau.

In another conflicting account, Edmiston said he saw a blue leash lying flat on the ground, as though no one were holding it.

But Cpl. Kevin Miller said Bogey was on a 6-foot leash.

That’s not true, countered McMenamin.

“The dog was not on a leash at the time, and they are saying it was,” he said.

In the March interview, Edmiston also described officers trying to pull the dog off him while he tried to open the canine’s mouth to get him off his leg.

Officers said Brusseau unhooked Bogey’s teeth from Edmiston’s leg.

Edmiston said: “I finally pried the dog’s mouth open. The cops didn’t do it.”

After the incident, McMenamin and the Washington Cities Insurance Authority (WCIA) tried settling Edmiston’s claim through unsuccessful mediation.

Edmiston’s $2.7 million claim for damages was hand-delivered Oct. 17 to city Human Resources Director Abbi Fountain.

That started a 60-day clock that ends at midnight Dec. 16, McMenamin and WCIA Director Ann Bennett said Friday.

McMenamin said the waiting period is a formality before he files a federal lawsuit alleging illegal search and seizure on the part of the Port Angeles Police Department.

“It would be my full intention, right now, that this will be litigated,” McMenamin said Friday.

“I don’t see that there’s a settlement on the horizon.”

Bennett said Friday the dispute is on hold and the sides are not talking.

“At this point, I don’t know what more we can do,” Bennett said. “We made an offer to to settle the case and they made counter demands, and we are just too far apart.”

Said McMenamin:“If [Bogey] attacked a kid, it would kill him. It’s not all the dog’s fault. These dogs are deadly weapons.”

Smith said Bogey is state-certified.

“They learn new things regularly,” he said. “We run the program to the highest standard.”

McMenamin said his case against the city is bolstered by Bogey biting Wade R. Dickerson of Sequim in a Feb. 5, 2015, incident.

Dickerson, 49, was a passenger in a suspected stolen car when the vehicle was stopped and the driver questioned by police.

The passenger got out of the vehicle and was on his knees being handcuffed “when the door to the canine unit got popped open and I saw K9 Bogey coming towards us,” Officer Lucas DeGand, who is no longer employed by the city, said in his report.

“K9 Bogey contacted Dickerson on his left hip area,” DeGand said in the report.

“Dickerson would not allow me to photograph his injuries, telling me that he didn’t want the pictures to end up on the Internet.”

Rich’s brother Patrick McMenamin represents Dickerson, who was not charged in the incident.

He said Dickerson is still receiving medical care for the injury, which Patrick McMenamin would not specify at Dickerson’s request.

“We’re going to wait and find out if there are surgical options or not,” McMenamin said.

Dickerson, evaluated by medics at the scene, had two “obvious, red-colored abrasions on the front side of his left hip,” DeGand said in his report.

“They did not see any signs of punctures to the skin.”

Dickerson has not decided whether he will file a claim.

“It’s the same dog that attacked both innocent individuals,” Patrick McMenamin said. “It would appear there’s a pattern.”

Smith said Friday that the two cases are “significantly different.”

He said Bogey reacted properly when DeGand inadvertently opened the rear door of his police vehicle with his K-9 “door popper” door-opening device.

DeGand said in a report to then-Chief Terry Gallagher that he accidentally activated it with his hand.

DeGand should change the placement of the automatic-door-release device on his uniform from his left front pocket to his equipment belt or another spot to prevent a similar occurrence, Smith, then deputy chief, told DeGand in a Feb. 27, 2015, “Memorandum of Caution.”

“The purpose of the memorandum is to remind you of your duty to do no harm,” Smith said.

“The dog went to the right person and did what it is trained to do in a situation where the officer didn’t mean to open the door,” Smith said recently.

“It was addressed in terms of a lesson learned.”

Fountain said Friday she has not been contacted by the WCIA.

She said the city has a $100,000 deductible with the WCIA that could be used to settle the case that would be drawn from the general fund.

Any settlement amount over $100,000 would be paid by the WCIA.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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