Woman sues police after K9 rips off her scalp in in shoplifting arrest

‘I just feel something attacking me, like paws on my back, then I start feeling rips from the scalp here, here, here and teeth grinding’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 03 March 2022 13:08 GMT
Brentwood police dog bites woman’s head, prompting lawsuit

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Louise Thomas

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A woman has sued a California police department after she had her scalp ripped off by a police dog during an arrest prompted by allegations of shoplifting.

Talmika Bates has sued the Brentwood Police Department and the city of Brentwood.

She told ABC7 News: “I just feel something attacking me, like paws on my back, then I start feeling rips from the scalp here, here, here and teeth grinding”.

“I thought I was going to die, I really did”, she added about the German Shepherd attack on 10 February 2020.

Ms Bates can be seen in police body camera footage saying that “my whole brain is bleeding”. She emerged from a bush where she had been hiding with significant head wounds, her skull becoming partially exposed.

She and two others were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting $10,000 of cosmetics at an Ulta Beauty Supply Store earlier that day, fleeing with the help of a getaway driver. The police attempted to stop the vehicle, which prompted the suspects to flee on foot.

After hiding in the bushes, Ms Bates was found by Brentwood police officer Ryan Rezentes and the German Shepherd Marco.

Ms Bates’ lawyers, Adante Pointer and Patrick Buelna, filed a complaint in Northern California federal court, stating that the officers didn’t warn Ms Bates before releasing the dog.

“Help me! The dog is biting me”, Ms Bates told the officers.

“We’re going to help you ... but you shouldn’t run from the police”, one officer replied.

“The search command was the only command given, which is standard from my training and experience for an open area search,” Mr Rezentes wrote in a report obtained by ABC7. “A police canine warning was not given because I had no indication there were any suspects in the area.”

He added that he heard someone say something to the effect of “get the dog off” and that he responded by saying “bring me the dog”.

When Ms Bates didn’t comply, the officer said he “took Marco off the bite”. He estimated that the dog bit Ms Bates for about 60 seconds.

“Officers Rezentes and Lou yelled at Ms Bates to stand up, an impossible task, as leaves and twigs scraped against her open head wounds,” the complaint stated, the New York Post reported. “Eventually, Officer Lou helped Ms Bates to her feet and placed her in handcuffs. The Officers berated Ms Bates for running from police as if getting her head bit and mauled by a vicious canine was a lawful and appropriate punishment for her crimes.”

Ms Bates’ scalp was reattached at an area hospital, but two years later, she says she still experiences memory loss, depression, and nightmares. Her scalp was significantly disfigured.

“I feel ugly,” she told KTVU. “I get miserable, I get depressed. I’m not happy with myself. I don’t even feel cute.”

The police officer is accused in the lawsuit of using excessive force and violating Ms Bates’ constitutional rights.

“This is an example of the way in which police do not look at Black and Brown people, or criminal suspects, as humans,” Adante Pointer told The Washington Post. “Instead, they are numb to ... the pain their use of excessive force causes.”

In a statement, the city of Brentwood said that “due to ongoing civil litigation the City of Brentwood including the Brentwood Police Department will not comment on the specific details and personnel matters requested by the media concerning this incident”.

“We can share that this incident was reviewed by the Brentwood Police Department use of force committee which found the use of force to be within policy and law under the circumstances which involved a high speed chase and a collision with a Brentwood police vehicle,” the city added. “The Brentwood Police department is not currently deploying a K9 program since April 2021.”

In a lengthy statement on Facebook, the Brentwood Police Officers’ Association said that “as has become commonplace in recent years ... media outlets abdicated their responsibility to inform the public on the facts of an incident, and instead have chosen to demonize the police and fan the flames of racial discord. Contrary to what was reported by the media, this was not just ‘a shoplifting incident’ and the use of a police K9 had nothing to do with the race of the suspects”.

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