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A Black teenager in Granite City, Illinois, says he wasn’t even the person police were looking for when they stopped the pick-up truck he was riding in one night earlier this month. During the traffic stop, a K-9 dog ran up and latched itself onto the 17-year-old for more than eight minutes—and only released after officers tased the dog.
“There were just deep dog bites like right inside of his leg,” Devondre Williams’ mother Tabbatha Woods told VICE News. “They cleaned it out real good, and then they had to stitch it because it was so deep.”
The Granite City Police Department alleged the teenager was obstructing their investigation by refusing to answer questions and follow their orders, according to a photo of the police incident report Woods provided to VICE News. But a witness who caught the K-9’s attack on cellphone video says the young man never resisted the officers, and no one involved in the stop was ever arrested.
“Williams nor any of the other gentlemen were resisting arrest,” the witness, Regeana Canada, told VICE News. “My question is why did the dog get loose? He didn’t resist arrest, the boys didn’t cause any problems.”
The video, which begins after the dog is already latched onto Williams, shows the teen flattened against the back of a pick-up truck screaming. The dog’s paws can be seen underneath the vehicle as several people watch.
“I ain’t never scream like that a day in my life," Williams told CBS affiliate KMOV4, which first reported the story last week.
About a minute and 45 seconds in, one of the officers tells Williams repeatedly, “we’re trying to get him off.” One bystander tells cops that Williams is bleeding.
After four minutes and 20 seconds, a taser can be heard followed by the yelp of a dog.
“I didn’t even do nothing, bro,” Williams tells the officers through tears as they sit him down on the sidewalk. He then repeatedly asks the officers to put the dog away. He was taken to a local hospital afterward.
“As a mother it was very heart wrenching,” Canada said. “Because there was nothing I could do but sit there and record.”
The Granite City Police Department did not respond to a request for comment, but Patrol Division Commander Caption Gary Brooks told KMOV4, “This investigation is still on-going and as a result, no further information can be given at this time regarding the matter.”
“There were just deep dog bites like right inside of his leg.”
At around 2 a.m. on July 19, officers pulled over the pick-up truck, the driver of which was involved in a fight earlier that night, according to police. Police say they were responding to reports of a fight in progress. As part of their investigation into the dispute, police pulled over the pick up truck which they say some of the individuals involved in the fight were in. Williams was sitting on the bed of the pick-up truck.
When officers asked Williams for his name, date of birth, and a statement regarding the alleged fight, the teen told officers, “You don’t need my fucking information for nothing,” according to the department’s incident report.
While the department’s statement to KMOV4 said the teen was “taken into custody with the assistance of a Police K-9,” the incident report seems to indicate that the K-9 was released by mistake.
“During the struggle the button controlling the door popper for my K-9 vehicle was activated,” the report says. “The button is on the front of my ballistic vest carrier and it is believed that when Williams pushed away from the vehicle and my body, it activated the door popper by inadvertently pressing the button, allowing my K-9 Waldo to exit the vehicle.”
The K-9 saw the ensuing struggle and came to the aid of officers by biting him in his right leg, the report says. When officers failed to get the dog to release using its choke chain and verbal commands, they resorted to using a taser, according to the report. After that, the dog released its hold, and officers took the teen to a squad car.
“What happened to my son is unacceptable, he wasn’t even resisting arrest,” said Woods, who has already hired an attorney and plans to seek legal action against the police. “He was being respectful to them. I don’t know what was going on that night, but they hurt my son.”
“One thing I can say is that they will not get away with it,” Woods added.
Empire 13, a local grassroots organization advocating for racial, social and environmental justice reform, held a protest against the department’s silence on the K-9 attack at Granite City Hall Tuesday.
“We want to show Granite City PD and show Granite City Municipality that this family is not alone,” Empire 13’s president JD Dixon told VICE News.
He accused the Granite City Police of trying to sweep the K-9 attack under the rug and believes their version of events accusing Williams of resisting arrest is an attempt to cover-up what really happened.
“PD’s saying he was resisting around, being belligerent and aggressive based on a report of the incident I’ve seen,” Dixon said. “They’re already trying to lie like they’ve been doing to the Black community for decades.”
Police dogs evoke public sympathy and adoration at a time when trust in law enforcement is at a record low. But several experts recently told VICE News it’s time to stop using them. They’re often sicced on minorities and the poor and homeless, and violent incidents usually stem from inadequate training.
Police K-9 attacks also cause more hospital visits than any other use of force by police, according to The Marshall Project. Cities like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Jacksonville reported as many as 220 police dog related injuries, according to the outlet.