The city of St. Paul, Minnesota, has agreed to pay $520,000 to a woman who was attacked by a police dog last year as she was taking out her trash, one of her attorneys said.
The decision to pay Desiree Collins for the Sept. 23, 2017, attack comes a month after a federal judge found that Collins’ constitutional rights were violated and that Officer Thaddeus Schmidt, the dog’s handler, had been reckless and “more than negligent.” U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ruled that Collins deserved a jury award.
Andy Noel, one of Collins’ attorneys, said both sides agreed to the settlement on Sept. 27, a day after the City Council met behind closed doors to discuss the lawsuit.
“She’s pleased and she’s glad that she can put this lawsuit behind her and move on with life,” Noel said of the settlement.
According to the lawsuit, Schmidt had K-9 Gabe on a 20-foot leash as he was searching for two burglary suspects. The dog latched on to Collins’ left leg and then her right arm as she was taking out her garbage, biting her multiple times and knocking her to the ground.
St. Paul City Attorney Lyndsey Olson said in a statement that the city favored an outcome that didn’t require Collins to endure the additional stress of a trial and ensures she would receive an appropriate portion of settlement funds, after attorneys’ fees.
Noel and attorney Robert Bennett also represented Frank Baker, who received a record $2 million settlement from St. Paul after he was mistaken for a suspect and bitten by a K-9 in 2016. He was hospitalized for two weeks. The same attorneys also represent Glenn Slaughter, who was accidentally bitten by a St. Paul police dog in July when the dog got loose from his collar.
The attacks prompted a major overhaul of how St. Paul police officers use dogs to assist in arrests. Changes made in July restrict the use of K-9s for apprehension, and also require twice monthly testing of handlers’ control of their dogs. K-9 teams that don’t meet training standards will be taken off patrol.
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