[WATCH] Woman Bitten by Police Canine Sues Newark Police Department

NEWARK – A woman bitten by a police canine in March 2016 has filed a federal lawsuit against the Newark Police Department and the canine’s handler.

Ashley Zurress, 31, was the passenger in a vehicle pulled over by police on March 2, 2016 by Officers Dave Burris and April Fleming. The driver of the vehicle, Jeffrey Grooms, fled the traffic stop on foot.

According to the suit filed in United States District Court Tuesday, Zurress did not believe she needed to stay at the scene and climbed into the driver’s seat of the vehicle and drove away.

The incident was captured on dash camera and a portion of it was also captured by a local resident’s cell phone camera.

The lawsuit alleges Zurress complied with officers and pulled over when police pursued her and was not given answers to her questions about why she was being pulled over.

“Ms. Zuress turned to face away from (Officer) who then ordered her to walk backwards toward him,” the lawsuit said. “Ms. Zuress did not immediately walk towards (Officer), rather she twisted her body around, asked why she was being pulled over and stated that she wanted to go home.”

The dash camera video shows Zuress walking backward from the vehicle. The dash camera does not show Burris’s canine partner, Ike, biting Zuress, but Zuress’ reaction can be heard on the recording.

“Approximately one second after (Officer) threatened Ms. Zuress with use of the ‘dog,’ Defendant Burris moved from his position behind Ike to Ms. Zuress’ Jeep,” the lawsuit said. “From that vantage point, Defendant Burris could clearly see that Ms. Zuress was unarmed and making no threatening moves.”

The lawsuit alleges the bite was a use of excessive force, causing Zuress to be taken “forcibly and painfully to the ground where Ike continued to bite Ms. Zuress’ arm while Defendant Burris and other officers forcefully placed (her) in handcuffs.”

The lawsuit also alleges Zuress suffered deep cuts, permanent nerve damage and scarring as a result of the bite.

Zuress received medical treatment at Licking Memorial Hospital before being taken to the Licking County Justice Center, The Advocate reported at the time.

Zuress was charged with two crimes as a result of the instance. The case was resolved through a plea deal in which she plead guilty to misdemeanor counts of obstructing official business and failure to comply. She was sentenced to a suspended 30 day jail sentence.

A loaded firearm was recovered from the passenger side of the vehicle, police said at the time.

Grooms was ultimately charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and failure to comply and was sentenced to three years of community control.

At the time of the incident in 2016, Newark Police reviewed the incident and determined Ike’s actions were within department policy.

In 2016, Newark Police Chief Barry Connell said officers have to deal with situations with the knowledge they have at the time.

“Somebody has run from the vehicle and now you have another person who has taken the vehicle and is fleeing,” he told The Advocate in March 2016. “We had those factors. And you have to think, why would somebody flee from a stop when they’re chasing someone on foot?”

Connell said Tuesday he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and did not have any comment.

Zuress is seeking unspecified monetary damages in excess of $25,000.

Source: http://www.newarkadvocate.com/story/news/crime/2017/10/03/woman-bitten-police-canine-sues-newark-police-department/728339001/

Newark police stopped a vehicle Wednesday night after the driver fled on foot and a passenger drove the vehicle away. A resident filmed the incident on a cell phone. Police have also released the dash camera video.