WASHINGTON – A former Prince George’s County police officer must face civil charges stemming from a 1997 dog attack on an unarmed suspect, but a federal appeals court dismissed the case against four other officers in the same incident.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s refusal to throw out the case against Stephanie C. Mohr, a former police officer who was convicted in a separate case of unleashing her police dog on an unarmed homeless man.
But the appellate panel also ruled Tuesday in favor of four officers who were charged along with Mohr in the latest incident, saying that they acted reasonably in the arrest of Anthony Hinds and that Hinds’ suit against them presented “no triable issue.”
The case began on July 28, 1997, after police stopped Hinds and another man in the 4900 block of Marlboro Pike. When police Cpl. Michael Margulis approached, Hinds ran, according to court documents, and Margulis took off after him.
Margulis caught Hinds several times during the chase, hitting the suspect in the face with his gun and later with his flashlight, court papers said. At one point, the officer saw Hinds throw something in an area where police later found a gun.
Each time Margulis caught him, Hinds managed to get away, even slipping out of his shirt to escape. At that point, Margulis called for a K9 unit and Mohr and her dog tracked Hinds to a hiding place. She ordered him to surrender or said the dog would attack him.
The officers knew that Hinds, wearing only shorts at that point, was not armed, but the court said Mohr set her dog on him anyway. Hinds seized the dog by the throat, but he was repeatedly bitten in the front and back of his upper body and down the legs.
Court documents said that during the attack, Margulis also sprayed pepper spray in Hinds’ face.
Hinds’ attorney, John F. Mercer, said the officers did nothing to stop the attack and, “Then they attacked him with Mace.”
Mercer could not say if he would press the case against the four officers until he talked to his client — who is currently in jail.
But Mercer said he will certainly continue with the civil suit against Mohr, who has been named in several other lawsuits that accuse her of releasing her dog on people who were not resisting arrest, according to published reports. Mohr, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for violating the civil rights of an unarmed man in one such attack, is currently free pending an appeal of her case.
But Prince George’s County Fraternal Order of Police President Anthony M. Walker said that for officers like Mohr, who work with police dogs, it is the “course of business to be sued.” He said plaintiffs use the “shotgun approach” when suing the police.
“They sue everyone who showed up to work that day and see what sticks,” Walker said.
He said Mohr, a former corporal, faced being fired or resigning as a result of the legal actions against her and, “She chose the better option.”