Warning: Graphic content below
A man is suing a Florida cop for letting his K-9 almost kill him — for the crime of riding a bicycle without a light.
Officer Lee Coel of the Punta Gorda Police Department spotted a shirtless, inebriated Richard Schumacher riding his bicycle without a light at Aqui Esta Drive at 10 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2015.
Coel told the man to stop, yet Schumacher continued pedaling. After Schumacher turned into a dark neighborhood, Coel is heard telling him to “Stop now or I’ll send the dog.” Schumacher eventually stopped and raised his hands while still astride the bike.
The gesture wasn’t good enough for Coel, who told Schumacher to get off the bike. In the next scene, the man is seen kneeling on the pavement, but even that wasn’t enough for the officer. He orders Schumacher to “get on your face. Do it now.”
When the man refused to comply, the officer releases his dog on him, even though Schumacher is unarmed and already on the ground.
The suspect can be heard yelling and telling the police to call his dog off, but all Coel cares about is making him lie flat on the ground. The dog rips the flesh under Schumacher’s arm and as he wriggles in pain, Coel tells him to stop moving or he will make the dog bite him again.
Soon after the attack, emergency responders arrived and took Schumacher to a hospital where he had to undergo surgery for the severe wound under his arm and had to remain in the hospital for 11 days.
Coel said Schumacher kept trying to hide his arm behind his back which made him suspect he had a weapon. He said he also attempted to handcuff the man who began resisting, causing the officer to release the dog. But the dashcam video shows the officer lied.
Schumacher was charged with fleeing and trying to elude the cop, resisting arrest without violence and driving under the influence, but that was before the video surfaced.
He is now suing the police department for the brutal K-9 attack and his attorney Scott Weinberg states the man has a strong case because Coel had “no reason to deploy the K-9 dog.”
“If you watch the video, from the first thing the officer says, he tried to stop my client for not having a light on his bicycle and he says, ‘Stop or I’ll send the dog,’ ” said Weinberg. “It seems pretty harsh to start sending a dog on somebody riding a bicycle by a gas station.”
The dog, whose name is Spirit, has been suspended, but officer Coel has still faced no punishment. People on social media have said the officer should face criminal charges for unleashing his service dog on the man who showed no physical aggression. But Punta Gorda police officials think otherwise.
“Poor decision-making in this particular instance did not warrant discipline,” Tom Lewis, the Punta Gorda police chief, said in a statement. “We provided the officer extra training, we switched trainers, and of course we restricted that policy to make sure that his decision-making in the future is in accordance to the way we want to do business.”