Good Samaritan mauled by police dog calls for changes
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:20PM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:07AM PST
A Maple Ridge man is calling on police departments to review the way they train their dogs after he was trying to help police nab a thief – and was mauled by mistake.
A CTV News Investigation has found that Bill Evanow was one of six people injured in two years when police dogs attacked the wrong targets.
“The more I look into it, the more obvious it is that something needs to change,” Evanow said. “It’s happening too often.”
In March 2011 Evanow, a Maple Ridge caterer, was at his home with his wife and four children when a thief being chased by police careened onto his property in a truck.
He got out of the truck and tried to flee, and Evanow chased after him. Evanow says he doesn’t remember hearing any police warning – just pain.
“It was horrific,” recalled Evanow, describing how the dog punctured his left thigh, ripping away chunks of his muscle and bringing him to the ground.
At first, police officers believed that he was the suspect – but eventually they pulled the dog off and let him get up, he remembers.
“I was convinced it had cut into an artery,” he said. “I hobbled home to say goodbye to my family. I was convinced I only had a matter of minutes.”
Cristina Evanow, Bill’s wife, said Evanow was dripping blood.
“Half his pants were gone. He was grey. He looked really, really bad,” she said.
Evanow spent a week in hospital. Mounties visited him there and apologized. The force is looking to offer some kind of compensation, though negotiations have dragged on for almost two years. The RCMP’s most recent offer is $20,000.
“There are ongoing discussions as to what’s a fair and appropriate compensation to that individual with public funds,” said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Thiessen.
Evanow says that amount isn’t enough because the injury has left him less mobile.
“Mowing the lawn, carrying things, he cannot do things he used to do at all,” Cristina said.
Sgt. Thiessen also said the dog handler in that case had made a mistake by not filing an incident report for about 11 months after the incident. After inquiries by CTV News, the force made that report public.
“Member later found out that (Evanow) was an innocent civilian bystander, who decided to take it upon himself to chase and catch the fleeing suspect…Member yelled at both subjects to stop, at which point (the suspect) continued fleeing down another alleyway, and (Evanow) stopped immediately,” the report reads.
According to the report, the officer told Evanow to move, but Evanow stood still.
“Member attempted to get around (Evanow) but (Police Service Dog) mistook (Evanow) as the bad guy and made contact with (Evanow) upper left thigh,” the report reads.
The reports of 426 dog attacks were obtained by CTV News using access to information laws. Most involved dogs apprehending suspects in thefts, domestic assaults, or suspects threatening officers. In some cases, the dogs were attacked or kicked while on duty – situations similar to the attack on the Vancouver Police dog Teak over the weekend.
The six reports of accidental attacks included a 24-year-old man at a party in Campbell River a dog mistook for a threat, a 26-year-old woman bit while watching police dog training in the Comox Valley, a 37-year-old man in the Lower Mainland who moved, provoking an accidental attack, and a 30-year-old man who was bitten in an apartment in Nanaimo when a man fleeing police entered his apartment building.
On a per capita basis, the RCMP dogs attacked about five times more often than municipal police departments in New Westminster, Delta and Saanich, which train dogs differently.
“There’s certain departments that have only one or two bites. There are departments like the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP that are in the hundreds. There are huge disparities,” said Pivot lawyer Doug King, who has requested police forces change the way their dogs are trained.
For more on types of police dog training critics say can reduce injuries, watch CTV News on Wednesday.