What started as a routine traffic stop in Florida—one that protesters are denouncing as racial profiling—ended with a Black man losing his eye in a K-9 attack.
An officer with the Gainesville Police Department (GPD), who hasn’t been named, pulled over 30-year-old Terrel Bradley for an unspecified “traffic violation” one night in early July, according to police. But after the officer asked him to submit to a search of his car, he took off running. When the officer and his K-9 unit caught up with Bradley, he incurred severe injuries.
Ultimately, police found a gun and weed in Bradley’s car, and he was arrested.
More than 100 Gainesville residents—many wearing eye patches—protested the mauling over the weekend, saying that Bradley was subjected to punishment that didn’t fit the crime he was suspected of.
“When Terrell’s traffic stop happened, yes, ultimately they did find a gun in car, but that’s beside the point,” community activist Danielle Chanzes, who helped organize the weekend’s protests, told VICE News. “Terrell didn’t feel safe, so he ran. I don’t think it's unreasonable for a Black man in America to run from police in a situation like that.
The Gainesville police green-lit an investigation on July 14, which is set to conclude in 7-10 days.
“We recognize some of our neighbors may feel disturbed by the images circulating on social media,” the department said in a statement Saturday. “Rest assured, GPD will be transparent during the review process, and we will provide our neighbors with an accurate accounting of this incident.”
Around 10:40 p.m. on July 10, the unidentified officer pulled Bradley over as he stopped near an apartment complex, according to police. The officer says he saw “contraband” when he walked over to the driver’s side window and saw Bradley reach toward the floor. Bradley was asked to exit the vehicle for a pat down, which he complied with, but he took off before the officer could complete his search.
Though the officer couldn’t catch Bradley initially, further inspection of the car he left behind turned up his ID card and a stolen loaded gun with ammunition under the driver’s seat. Police on the scene also found out that Bradley was a former felon. At that point, backup was called and a search began for the missing man. Police say they brought in a K-9 because Bradley had a prior felony.
An hour after he fled, Bradley was found hiding behind bushes, and the K-9 “apprehended” him, as police described.
“Officers observed injury to the driver and EMS was immediately requested and responded,” police said. “The driver was transported via ambulance to the hospital.”
Bradley suffered bites to his hands and body. At one point, the K-9 latched onto his eye and pulled it out of the socket.
Bradley was released from the hospital last Wednesday and was booked into Hillsborough County Jail. On Tuesday, a judge ruled he would be allowed to await trial from home. Bradley faces four charges, according to police, including two counts of firearm possession, possession of fewer than 20 grams of cannabis, and resisting an officer.
Chanzes, who’s been in touch with Bradley’s family since the day after the incident, said he’s in a lot of pain but is in good spirits, thanks to the support from his community. She also said that his family plans to take civil legal action in the near future. Bradley’s family told Chanzes that the police department was radio-silent about what happened to their loved one until the images were made public last week.
So far, protestors have demanded the release of the body camera footage. They’re also asking the department to update its policy to ensure officers don’t pursue suspects who don’t pose an immediate threat to others, the termination of both the K-9 handler and the officer who conducted the traffic stop, and finally, for the department to keep police dog who attacked Bradley from being deployed again, according to Chanzes.
More and more incidents of K-9 attacks have occurred in recent years, and in 2020, the Marshall Project reported that police K-9s caused more hospital visits than any other use of force by police. Experts are increasing calling for reform.
Victor Bradley, Terrell’s father and a former Gainesville police officer, said that he knows firsthand how dangerous K-9s can be.
“I’ve been in situations where I saw they haven’t used K-9 favorably,” Bradley said at a protest, according to local news station WCJB. “I think they’re just an extension, a gun on a leash. Unfortunately, some of the officers that they have training the dogs, they think the dog’s reward is being able to get a bite.”