116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids mother this week filed a lawsuit against a Cedar Rapids police K-9 officer and the city, asserting excessive force was used on her 13-year-old son when he was wrongly attacked by a police dog and arrested in a stolen vehicle incident “simply by virtue of his race and appearance.”
The mother, TonyaMarie Adams, filed an open records petition in November with the police department to get a copy of police body camera recordings and any other audio and video of her son’s arrest last summer. She received video from a body camera recording in response, and shared it with The Gazette after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit asserts excessive force was used by officers involved in the arrest, as well as K-9 officer Nathan Trimble and his canine partner; that there was negligence in police canine training, and racial discrimination that amounted to reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others, including 13-year-old A.H., as he is identified in the suit.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of an $8 million settlement the city announced it would pay to Black motorist Jerime Mitchell and his wife, Bracken, after he was shot and paralyzed in 2016 by a white police officer, who was cleared by a grand jury but fired last year over departmental violations. In announcing the settlement, which is covered by insurance, the city did not admit wrongdoing.
In this incident, the teen initially was arrested but after being treated for injuries was released and not charged.
Maria Johnson, Cedar Rapids communications manager, said the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
According to police reports, officers were pursuing suspects in a stolen vehicle investigation, which also may have included firearms. Reports indicated young Black male suspects may have been in the area of Eighth Street NW near Ellis Boulevard in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2020.
Brad Kaspar, an attorney for Adams, said two nights after the Aug. 10 derecho left Cedar Rapids without power, the teen planned to spend the night with a friend. But there was a mix up in communication and he ended up falling asleep in his friend's backyard, in the 1100 block of Eighth Street NW, because nobody was home.
The report, provided by Kaspar, stated Officer Trimble, who is named in the suit, was with his 6-year-old police dog partner Ace and moving toward an alleyway, directly behind an area where police had found one of the suspects hiding under a car. There was a large lot at 1100 Eighth St. NW with chopped up tree branches from the storm.
Trimble, in the report, said Ace started moving around a metal trailer, out of his view. A short time later he heard screaming and saw Ace biting the upper arm of an individual “partially hidden” next to the logs.
The lawsuit states Ace latched onto the youth’s arm and refused to release despite being commanded to do so.
“I moved up my leash to gain positive control of Ace’s harness,” Trimble said in the report. “With the footing it was extremely difficult to maintain balance on as the logs were all around and I fell down several times. I did verify that the subject had nothing in his hands. I grabbed ahold of Ace’s collar and removed him.”
Kaspar previously said the teen didn’t know why the dog had attacked him and officers were yelling at him. The teen said officers threatened him with car theft and firearms charges, Kaspar said.
The lawsuit states the police dog handled by Trimble has in at least one previous incident attacked a citizen “without provocation or command.” In this case, Trimble failed to adequately control the police dog as it “sporadically darted throughout the neighborhood,” the suit asserts.
The report stated that after the teen was arrested, officers took him to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's Hospital. Kaspar said the medical report described the teen's injuries as deep lacerations and scrapings. He likely will have a lot of scarring, Kaspar noted.
The suit asserts officers assumed A.H. was involved in the criminal activity because of his race and appearance. Officers didn’t look for more information before searching, detaining and arresting the 13-year-old, it alleges.
Kaspar said after the teen was treated, the officers realized he wasn't involved in the crime and released him.
The suit states the attack and arrest has caused the teen physical and emotional injuries and damages.
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