Gainesville police are reviewing an incident in which an officer responding to a burglary call Wednesday released a police dog on a 10-year-old boy, who was bitten.
Capt. Ed Book said it is routine that K-9 bites be reviewed. He said police later learned the woman who had reported the burglary allegedly has mental health issues.
Bitten was Bryce Bates of the 3300 block of Northwest 21st Drive. Bates said his mother had asked him to get the mail and that he had ridden his bicycle a short distance from his condominium when he saw a police car speeding toward him.
The 10-year-old, who is 5 feet tall and weighs 85 pounds, said he became scared, jumped off his bike and began running for home.
"I saw the police car, and he was speeding real fast. I thought he was going to hit me, so I jumped off my bike and ran," Bryce said. "I heard the dog barking and looked behind and saw it running after me."
The dog caught Bryce just as he reached his front door, biting the back of his left thigh. Bryce had one puncture wound that tore the flesh and several smaller bite wounds and scratches.
Brice's parents, Ferris Bates and Cheron Hampton-Bates, said they insisted that their son be taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was treated and released.
The incident began about 3:20 p.m. with a burglary-in-progress call in the 3400 block of Northwest 21st Drive. Cpl. Tim Durst, with his dog Grady, responded and saw a youth on a bicycle in the area.
Police say Durst yelled for the boy to stop. The officer then released Grady, which bit the boy on the leg and caused minor injuries, Book said.
Book said details, including whether Bryce matched any descriptions that might have been given by the woman, will be part of the review.
"We believe that there were some warnings given. He didn't stop," Book said of the incident involving the boy. "We think he probably got off his bicycle and ran, but we don't know if he was running from police or running because he was scared. There is a difference.
"Unfortunately ... it was only well after we had this K-9 incident that we learned that the woman has a mental health condition that causes her to see things or imagine things," Book said.
GPD's manual regarding the use of dogs for apprehension states a K-9 can be released: to prevent the escape of a person whom the officer believes has committed a felony offense; if the subject has outstanding warrants; or if the person is believed to be armed and a serious threat to officers.
The officer must warn the subject to stop, according to the manual, and state that the dog will be released if the subject does not stop.
Bryce will be a fifth-grader at Glen Springs Elementary School. His mother said she saw Bryce running to the door with the dog behind him and initially thought it was a neighborhood dog chasing him.
"It attacked him right in the doorway. I saw the dog just bear down on him and moving and tugging and constantly biting and biting," Hampton-Bates said. "(Bryce) didn't know the officer was telling him to stop. He was screaming my name the whole way here."
Hampton-Bates said the incident "made me question whether (Bryce) is the victim of profiling" because he is a black youth. She added that she spoke with Police Chief Tony Jones and that he assured her the incident will be fully reviewed.
Gainesville lawyer Robert Rush, who has won settlements against GPD in other dog bite cases, questioned whether police had any probable cause against the boy to release the dog.
"If he gets off the bicycle and runs, what probable cause do they have to believe that this child is an imminent threat and danger?" Rush said. "That's a misuse of the dog. It's a complete misuse of the dog."