Public Safety

Lawsuit: Cedar Rapids police dog wrongly attacked Black teen

Suit seeks records, including body camera video, of incident

A photo shows the deep lacerations and scrapings on a teen's shoulder and upper arm area after a Cedar Rapids police dog
A photo shows the deep lacerations and scrapings on a teen’s shoulder and upper arm area after a Cedar Rapids police dog attacked him, court records state, Brad Kaspar, a Cedar Rapids lawyer for TonyaMarie Adams, mother of the 13-year-old they say police wrongly accused of being involved in a stolen car incident, provided the photos.
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids mother, in an open records lawsuit against the city’s police department, asserts her 13-year-old son was attacked by a police dog and arrested for an incident he wasn’t involved in because he is a Black youth “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Two nights after the hurricane-like derecho left Cedar Rapids without power, the teen was going 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, Brad Kaspar, a Cedar Rapids lawyer who is representing the mother, TonyaMarie Adams, told The Gazette this week.

Police, according to reports, were pursuing four suspects in a stolen vehicle investigation, which also may have included a firearm, Kaspar said. Reports indicated the young Black male suspects may have be on foot in the area of Eighth Street NW near Ellis Boulevard. An officer and his police dog were going down Eighth Street when they encountered the 13-year-old in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, he said.

Kaspar said the teen awoke to the police dog “attacking” him and “officers yelling at him” but did not know what was going on. The officers threatened him with car theft and firearms charges, Kaspar said.

After officers arrested the teen and handcuffed him, they called emergency medical personnel to look at the injuries and then took the teen to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital for treatment, Kaspar said.

The teen’s injuries were described as deep lacerations and scrapings in the medical report, and he will likely have a lot of scarring, Kaspar said. Kaspar said the teen refused stitches because he was likely scared. Kaspar shared photos of the teen’s injuries with The Gazette.

While at the hospital, officers “wrongfully” told medical personnel the teen had been in a “car that was involved in a pursuit which resulted in a foot pursuit,” the petition states.

Kaspar said after the teen was treated, the officers realized he wasn’t involved in the crime and took him to his grandmother’s house, where his mother was staying because of the storm. But nobody was at the house at the time and the teen couldn’t get in and didn’t know how to reach his grandmother and mother because of power and phone service outages after the derecho.

Officers suggested he could get in through a window, which he did.

“He is a good kid and student,” Kaspar said. “He’s the quarterback for his school football team and involved in a lot of school activities. This has been traumatizing to him.”

Kaspar said no charges were filed against the teen. He was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” — and happened to be a young Black male, Kaspar added.

His mother, Tonya Adams, is asking the court to order the Cedar Rapids Police Department to provide her and her lawyer with records, including body camera recordings and any audio and video from a police vehicle, about the incident and any interaction made with her son.

She made the open records request Sept. 29. The department on Oct. 13 provided only the incident and investigation report and calls for service report. Officials said nothing further would be provided because it’s part of an ongoing investigation and other individuals also were identified in the files.

The city of Cedar Rapids received a copy of the lawsuit resulting from the denial Tuesday and hasn’t yet responded.

Greg Buelow, the city’s public safety spokesman, said as a matter of policy, the city is unable to comment on pending litigation.

Kaspar said withholding the information is a violation of Iowa open records law. The interactions between the police and the 13-year-old cannot be kept secret just because the department labels it as part of a larger investigation, he said.

Kaspar shared with The Gazette the calls for service and other incident reports provided to him through the open records request. The names of juvenile suspects are redacted in the calls for service report, but it does mention the dog bite of a “subject” in a backyard on Eighth Street NW. The report indicates the police dog was deployed on another suspect before the teen, Kaspar pointed out.

Kaspar said Adams wants to obtain all the police records in the incident before considering other court action. He expects there will be a hearing before a judge on the release of records.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com