A Florida man, who was nearly killed by a K-9 dog named Spirit in a traffic stop over a bicycle light last year, is currently suing the Punta Gorda police department, according to Wink News. At approximately 10 p.m. on October 30, 2015, Officer Lee Coel spotted shirtless 25-year-old Richard Schumacher riding his bicycle down Aqui Esta Drive without a light.
When the officer made an attempt to stop the Florida man, he continued pedaling and according to the officer, he sped up. After Schumacher turned down a dark neighborhood, the officer yelled out of his window, informing him that if he doesn’t stop, he’s going to send the K-9 dog, who can be heard barking uncontrollably from the officer’s dash cam.
A few minutes later, Schumacher can be seen throwing his hands up before pulling over in front of a residential driveway. When the officer proceeded to get out of his patrol car, he can be heard saying, “step off the bicycle.” Schumacher did not comply. Instead, he stayed seated on the bicycle while lifting his hands in the air.
Evidently, the gesture wasn’t good enough for the officer as he reiterated, “Lift up your hands and step off the bicycle. Do it now!”
In the next scene, the suspect is off of his bicycle and has one knee on the pavement. The officer orders him to “get on his face. Do it now,” but he doesn’t comply. He instead continues to lift his hands in the air, but the officer becomes exasperated. He allowed the K-9 dog to maul the suspect.
The officer then comes into view, attempting to lay the suspect on the ground with the help of his K-9 dog that is biting Schumacher. At that point, the Florida man is pleading with the officer to get the dog off of him, but he disregards his request.
Although the suspect is already on the ground, something the officer Coel asked of the suspect multiple times, he allowed the K-9 dog to continue to maul him for several minutes until he began to bleed after the dog ripped the flesh under his arm.
From the police officer’s dash cam, the suspect can be seen swarming on the pavement as he moaned in agony. The officer warned the suspect that if he continued to move, he would allow the K-9 dog to bite him again.
Not long after the K-9 dog attack, emergency services arrived at the scene and transported the Florida man to a local hospital, where he remained for 11 days and underwent surgery.
According to Fox 4 Now, Schumacher later received a citation for riding a bicycle without a light. He is also facing charges of “attempting to elude an officer, violation of probation, DUI on a bicycle and obstructing an officer without violence.”
Schumacher is now suing the Punta Gorda police department for the K-9 attack after his attorney Scott Weinberg stated that he believes he has a “strong case” against the Punta Gorda officer, as he had absolutely “no reason to deploy the K-9 dog.”
The attorney went on to say that “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.’ ”
“It seems pretty harsh to start sending a dog on somebody riding a bicycle by a gas station.”
Social media users were outraged after learning that the K-9 dog has since been suspended, but officer Coel has not. Several people suggested that the officer should be fired or face criminal charges for allowing Spirit to attack the suspect, who did not show signs of physical aggression.
Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis said, “Poor decision-making in this particular instance did not warrant discipline. 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.”
Lewis added that a K-9 expert was called to investigate the incident to uncover if the officer “performed the arrest according to his training.” He also stated that “there was some irrational behavior where he [suspect] punches the ground with his bare fists, some profanity, but being physically aggressive at some point, I did not see that.”
“I think the biggest thing here is irrespective of the legalities and technicalities and everything else, we wanted to make sure that something like this never happened again.”
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]