Part 1: ROUGHING UP PHILA.: THE POLICE K-9 CASES
ROUGHING UP PHILA.: THE POLICE K-9 CASES
Apr 15, 1984
It was nearly 1 o'clock in the morning last May 31 when an exuberant Matthew Horace bounded up the subway staircase on the east side of City Hall.
Like thousands of others, Horace had come to Center City to celebrate the Sixers' sweep of the NBA Championship Series. He was looking for a good time. He never found it.
As he stepped out of the stairwell, Horace saw a snarling German shepherd, followed by four or five police officers, moving rapidly toward him. Alarmed, he turned and began walking fast. It was too late. Moments later, Horace was clinging to a traffic light and screaming as Macho, a police K-9 dog, ripped his right sneaker off and sank his teeth repeatedly into Horace's foot.
Police officer Daniel Bechtel finally pulled the dog off and shouted at Horace to "get the f- out of here," Horace recalls. Then, as fast as they had appeared, Bechtel and the dog disappeared into the crowd. But Matthew Horace was in no shape to go anywhere. After bystanders helped him hobble to 13th and Market Streets, two other police officers drove him to Hahnemann University Hospital. He would remain there for a week.
Matthew Horace, a man with no criminal record, then or now, has plenty of company. A three-month Inquirer investigation has found that a hard core of errant K-9 police officers, and their dogs, is out of control.
Furthermore, the Police Department has made no attempt to hold these men, or their colleagues, to any sort of written guidelines or standard procedures spelling out when to attack and when to hold back.
Nor has the department shown any interest in monitoring the performance of its 125-man K-9 unit or trying to keep track of unjustified attacks by dogs.
The problem is severe enough that Anthony Taff, the man who founded the Philadelphia K-9 unit 22 years ago, disavows the manner in which the dogs are currently trained. He also believes that a small but significant minority of officers are failing to contain their dogs or are commanding them to attack and maul citizens needlessly.
And it is severe enough that police officers, both active and retired, both K-9 and regular, express fear that too often the police dog, not the police officer, is in charge. As a consequence, they say, innocent civilians and even police officers attempting arrests are vulnerable to attack by ill- trained, uncontrolled and high-strung attack dogs.
This is not to say that most of the officers and most of the dogs in the K- 9 unit are menaces to public safety. They are not. But some clearly are - and what's worse, they are allowed to be.
The Police Department says it keeps no records of bites recorded by K-9 dogs, justified or not. But it did, in 1983, produce an extraordinary document in U.S. District Court. In response to an order from Chief Judge Alfred L. Luongo, the department filed a list of 46 recorded dog bites in the year that ended July 1. The list was incomplete. Among the 20 cases reviewed by the Inquirer, five that occurred during that 12-month period were not on the list. But the department's list did reveal the same pattern The Inquirer found in the cases it studied.
That pattern: A few officers and a few dogs account for a disproportionate number of attacks and dog bites. On the police list, dogs controlled by two officers alone, Raymond Oechslin and Thomas Smyth Jr., accounted for 12 bites - more than one-fourth the total for a unit of 125 men. And six K-9 officers recorded 25 of the 46 bites. That means that the remaining 119 K-9 officers recorded only 21 bites. At that rate, those 119 would each average about one bite case every six years.
Similarly, of the 20 cases reviewed by The Inquirer, five involve one police officer alone - Daniel Bechtel, whose dog, Macho, bit Matthew Horace. Indeed, on one incredible night in September 1982, Bechtel's dog Macho attacked two citizens, each with no previous criminal record. The attacks occured in two different locations, almost two miles apart, within 90 minutes.
For the record, the Police Department says there is no problem. Capt. John J. McLees, the department's spokesman, said the department had no way of responding to The Inquirer's request for a list of bites inflicted by K-9 dogs in each of the last three years.
Indeed, McLees said the department did not keep track of citizens' complaints against K-9 officers, or of the number of arrests in which a K-9 dog bit someone, or of the number of accidental K-9 dog bites.
Many law enforcement officials strongly advocate use of the dogs for crowd control and other police activities. Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor said the dogs were extremely useful in building searches, the detection of narcotics and explosives, the discovery of missing persons and the apprehension of fleeing suspects.
But, The Inquirer's study found, too often the dogs' use is not restricted to those purposes. Instead:
* The police K-9 dogs have repeatedly attacked and bitten unarmed men and women with no criminal records.
* Contrary to accepted standards in other K-9 units, the Philadelphia dogs are not trained to release victims quickly after an initial bite. They are trained to do the opposite - hold on and keep chewing until called, or yanked, off. The Inquirer found cases in which dogs continued to maul and chew on immobilized victims for minutes.
* The resulting dog bites have left deep and disfiguring wounds and mangled limbs that require extensive and expensive hospitalization. The physical scars are permanent; so sometimes is the emotional trauma that endures long after wounds heal. One man who was attacked by a K-9 dog on Dec. 17 needed three skin grafts to repair his leg. "It looked like his skin had been burned away with napalm," said Jeffrey DelFuoco, a legal intern with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which represents the man. "The skin had just been stripped away from behind the kneecap to the ankle."
* Many times, those bitten by the dogs were not accused of committing any crime before their encounter with the K-9 officers, and any criminal charges that were lodged against them were related solely to their encounter with the K-9 officer and his dog. And often, those charges have failed to stand up in court, leaving the city vulnerable to protracted and potentially expensive civil suits.
Two men who were attacked by officer Raymond Oechslin's dog, King, during a two-week period this winter have retained attorneys and plan to sue the city. Another bite victim, who was acquitted of assaulting an officer in July 1981, filed suit against the city. He was awarded $9,742.50 in damages last September by an arbitration panel. The city is appealing.
* Police officers themselves attempting to make arrests or apprehensions have been bitten by police dogs. For this reason and others, there is a high turnover rate in the canine unit and a high dropout rate in canine training. One officer who was assigned to the K-9 transit unit said he was so uncomfortable that he kept his dog locked up all day. Others, he said, tried to transfer out of transit so they could keep their dog in a police van.
* Former Police Commissioner Morton B. Solomon, in a deposition in February 1982, stated that there were only three circumstances in which he believed a dog should be commanded to attack - to protect an officer's life, to protect another person's life or to apprehend a fleeing felon. But these are only Solomon's beliefs, not the rules that actually govern the officer and dog on the street. In fact, K-9 officers have enormous latitude, and can order an attack when they believe the situation calls for it.
Both Anthony Taff, the dog trainer who was contracted to found the K-9 corps, and another former K-9 transit officer interviewed by The Inquirer believe that the problem begins in training and extends to the psychology of both the officer and the dog. The former officer says, "The only thing I can compare (the training) to is Marine boot camp. . . . They start out with 20 men and they usually end up with 10. Some guys get bit themselves, or their dogs end up hurting someone else. You start out with 60 dogs. They'll go through 20 to 25 dogs until they get the right one. "
That officer, who declined to be named, says the dogs are trained to hold on indefinitely in this manner: "They have a burlap bag tied to a rope and suspended from a tree on a pulley system. The dog is taught to hang on to that bag while the trainer raises it higher and higher. They pull on that rope and they teach the dog to hold on and hold on and keep holding. . . . I had one dog (in training) who would hold on and pass out holding the guy's arm. He would forget to breathe. "
Taff is appalled by such training techniques. "That (the pulley exercise) was positively taboo when I was in charge," he says. "The whole emphasis on this long bite and hold is entirely unnecessary. We don't want biters on the force. That type of dog (one that mauls a suspect), I wouldn't even accept on the K-9 corps. "
Taff, who has trained dogs for 40 years, was astonished to learn of the severe injuries The Inquirer had found in dog-bite cases. "I just can't conceive of that," he said. "If the dog is biting when the handler is there, then that dog is not under control. Why do you need a dog biting someone when the officer is there on the scene? "
Taff also finds disquieting a scene he has seen more than once on the streets of Philadelphia: the sight of K-9 dogs barking and pacing in agitation in the back of police jeeps in Center City. "Look," he says, ''I'm a taxpayer, and to a certain extent, that's my vehicle and that's my dog. He has no business acting like a caged idiot back there. In theory, K-9 dogs should in no way take a hostile attitude toward anyone on their own. It should be up to the handler. "
The former transit officer The Inquirer spoke to would hardly recognize the well-trained, obedient police dog Taff described as the ideal. "With 60 dogs (in the transit unit), they all have their own personalities," he says. ''Some things, they're spooky on. Others, they're all right. One dog down there, he hated poles - you know, columns. He'd leap from one pole to another. We used to kid each other, 'Your dog belongs on the psychiatrist's couch. ' One dog would never bark, but if you got anywhere near him, he'd bite you. We called him Snake.
"Working with dogs is like working with kids who have hypertension. You can never trust them. You have to watch them constantly. They have minds of their own. People will say that you get to know the dog after a while, but I think that the dog gets to know you. . . . After a while, the dog is leading the handler. The dog knows that he can handle the handler. "
It is the combination of "macho" police officers and unreliable dogs that leads to unwarranted attacks, says the former officer. "It's like I've got the dog and I'm going to show you what he can do. We all do that to a certain extent because we're all guy's guys. It's just like sitting down after an arrest. It's a macho thing - everyone beating their chest. The other police want to see how bad this dog is. So you want to show them. They want a show. . . . If I got a dog, I'm going to use it."
**SINGLEG* Altogether, The Inquirer reviewed records from 20 K-9 biting cases that occurred between May 1980 and January 1984. Of that group, nine cases were selected for further investigation because the victims were unarmed and - with one exception - had no record of violent crime. Six of the nine incidents were witnessed by men or women other than the defendants and the police. All but one of the victims were charged with a violation of the law in connection with their encounter with a police dog.
The Inquirer mailed certified letters on March 6 to the homes of the K-9 officers whose arrests are detailed in this article and requested interviews. None of the officers responded to the letter or to messages left at their Police Department telephone numbers. On Feb. 28, a list of nine questions was submitted in writing to the Police Department, including requests to read the official files on each case reviewed by The Inquirer and to interview the arresting officers. Those requests were rejected.
**SINGLEG* The Philadelphia Police Department's K-9 unit, created in 1962 with three dogs, currently consists of about 125 dogs, whose patrols are concentrated in Center City and in subway, elevated and commuter rail stations throughout the city.
In October 1980, when the Phillies won their first World Series in history, the K-9 unit's German shepherds appeared on national television as they patrolled the Veterans Stadium field in the tense ninth inning to discourage the crowd from celebrating the victory on the diamond.
But the K-9 unit doesn't always behave the way it did at the World Series. Consider the early-morning hours of Sept. 12, 1982. That was the night that officer Daniel Bechtel's dog, Macho, attacked two citizens with no previous
criminal records in two different locations in a 90-minute time span.
The first case that evening was that of Veronica Jones, who was bitten twice on the left leg by Macho about 1 a.m. on Sept. 12, 1982. She was not arrested at the scene of the incident, at Broad Street and Ridge Avenue, but later, while she was being treated at Hahnemann University Hospital, she was charged with failing to disperse and disorderly conduct.
The second case was that of Kenneth Donald Curtis, who at 2:30 a.m. on that same September day encountered Bechtel and Macho walking near 13th and Locust Streets. Curtis ended up at Metropolitan Hospital with multiple puncture wounds of the left forearm and two puncture wounds on his left thigh.
Curtis, a 35-year-old employee of the U.S. Navy's publications office who had never been arrested before that evening, was charged with riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Like Veronica Jones, Curtis was allowed to participate in a special court program for defendants with no previous criminal record, and after six months, the record of his arrest was expunged.
Curtis filed a suit against Bechtel and the City of Philadelphia in January.
A devoutly religious man whose wife died three years ago, Curtis lives in a neat rowhouse in Wynnefield with his mother and 4-year-old daughter, Brandi. Why has he decided to pursue this case, despite the time, expense and recurrent emotional turmoil it causes?
"Because," he said in a two-hour interview at his mother's home, "I have a child, and if something like that happens to my child, I'd want to kill that man. I would make it my life's work to find him.
"Cheese and crackers," he said, summoning forth the strongest expletive he used in the interview, "I'd just lost my wife. My main concern was right here. That whole thing just threw me for a loop. "
In the cases reviewed by The Inquirer, the criminal defendants, like Curtis, did not have a weapon in their possession. Here are those cases, based on interviews with those arrested, eyewitnesses, medical records, police reports, photographs and court documents.
**SINGLEG* Like Matthew Horace, Steve Raynor arrived in Center City to celebrate a special occasion - New Year's Day 1984 and the traditional Mummers Parade up Broad Street. Raynor, too, ended up at Hahnemann Hospital after he was attacked by two K-9 dogs while three of his friends looked on in terror and disbelief. A reporter who visited him there during his 10 days in the hospital observed numerous dog-bite wounds in both legs, and a four-inch- square section of flesh was gouged out of his right calf. There, however, the parallels between the two cases end.
Raynor was charged with assaulting K-9 police officer Andrew Goldenberg. The alleged assault occurred while he and another man waited for one of their friends to finish urinating in an alcove of the subway concourse beneath Broad and Spruce Streets. His criminal case has been placed in a court- supervised program, which will result in the expungement of the arrest record, provided Raynor is not arrested again within six months.
Raynor says he did not strike a Philadelphia police officer or try to strike a police officer on New Year's Day. (On Jan. 23, Raynor was polygraphed by William B. Anderson Jr., chairman of the criminal justice department at West Chester University, who was an FBI polygrapher from 1960 to 1974. Anderson's examination, which was commissioned by The Inquirer, indicated that Raynor was telling the truth. )
"Based on the charts produced in this polygraph test," Anderson wrote, ''it is my opinion that Raynor's answers to these critical questions were not indicative of deception or, simply stated, were truthful answers. "
Raynor, 25, who grew up in Woodbury, N.J., works as a doorman at a bar called Woods East in Mays Landing, N.J. The bar is managed by John Fackelman, 44. About 5 p.m. on Jan. 1, Raynor, Fackelman and two of Raynor's friends - John Henry and Bill Snow - took the Lindenwold high-speed line into Philadelphia to watch the Mummers Parade. Both Fackelman and Raynor were due back at work that night at 9 o'clock, so, as Fackelman recalled, "our deadline (for leaving the city) was 7 p.m."
Because of the cold weather that day, the four friends decided to descend onto the Broad Street concourse at Spruce Street, the southern end of the walkway, and then walk the two blocks to the high-speed line underground. Fackelman recalled seeing a group of police officers, including one K-9 officer, chatting among themselves at the southern end of the concourse.
As the four men proceeded south, Henry, who along with Snow was walking ahead of his two friends, announced that he was going to find a secluded spot where he could urinate. Fackelman and Raynor said they were talking when they heard someone shout, "What do you think you're doing? "
Raynor, a slender, blond-haired man who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 160 pounds, said he saw a K-9 police officer approach them, and "the next thing I remember the dog had John's coat. I remember seeing John jerk away. " Fackelman still has the plaid, sheepskin-lined coat he was wearing that evening, which has a two-inch gash on the right sleeve just above the cuff and another rip about three inches above that. In addition, Fackelman said, the K-9 dog ripped off one of the three buttons on his coat and tore another one loose from the fabric.
Fackelman said he quickly pivoted away from the K-9 dog and his handler, whom none of the four friends could identify by name or badge number. (A copy of the official police arrest report that was obtained by The Inquirer lists both officer Goldenberg and K-9 officer Oechslin as the arresting officers. Both men are assigned to the Police Department's K-9 transit unit).
The police report stated that the first officer on the scene was Goldenberg, accompanied by his K-9 dog, Blitzen. At this point, Raynor said he ''said something wise to the cop. " He cannot remember precisely what he said, but "the next thing I know the dog had my leg, and then it got confusing. " Raynor said that he is positive - and the polygraph test result suggests that his recollection is accurate - that he did not strike or attempt to strike any police officer.
The concourse beneath Broad Street is a maze of equidistant metal columns, and Raynor said that with the dog's teeth firmly embedded in his right leg, he ''headed for a pole, because I didn't want to get dragged along the floor. "
"What's it, against the law to holler at a cop? " Raynor said he shouted at the K-9 officer.
When he uttered those words, Raynor said, the officer punched him in the mouth. "I spun around," Raynor said, "and went down on the ground. I just
went down, right down. " As he crashed onto the concourse floor face first, Raynor hit his nose and right eye, blackening the eye.
"I was down with my face down on the ground," Raynor said, "and I remember feeling another dog on my left leg. The two dogs were pulling my legs apart. . . . I heard a lot of barking. The next thing I know I got handcuffed. That's when I started feeling the pain. "
By this time, Fackelman said, he had been ordered by another police officer to stand next to Henry and Snow facing the wall, so that none of the three saw the first dog's initial contact with their friend. Soon thereafter, the three friends said, they were turned around, facing Raynor, so they could be handcuffed.
"Steve was on the ground with one dog on his right leg," Fackelman said. Then, Fackelman said, he saw a second German shepherd - off the leash and without any police officer accompanying him - race toward Raynor from the south end of the concourse and "grab his left leg. "
The second dog, according to the police report, was Oechslin's dog, King, who also bit Raynor.
Fackelman said he turned to the officer who had handcuffed him and said, ''Hey man, that's enough with the dogs. "
"They'll let him up when they're ready," the police officer replied, according to Fackelman.
Bill Snow, 21, an oyster shucker at Resorts International Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, has a somewhat different recollection than Fackelman's. While he vividly recalled that two dogs were tearing into Raynor's legs, he said that both dogs "were on the leash," apparently in the control of their handlers.
Henry, 22, a student at Stockton State College and a part-time bartender, said Raynor was on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back, with one dog gnawing on each of his legs. "They were pulling Steve's legs apart," he said. "Their leashes were taut. The dogs were barking and barking and barking. "
Raynor said he was in no condition to know how long the two dogs had his legs locked in their grip, but he said, "It just seemed like forever. I was practically begging for them to get the dogs off.
" 'Call the dogs off, please call the dogs off,' " Raynor recalled pleading. Raynor estimated that the dogs bit him for two minutes to five minutes. Fackelman said that at least four or five minutes elapsed before the dogs were removed from Raynor's legs.
Raynor watched as his three friends were escorted in handcuffs away from the scene of the arrest. Then, he said, he overheard the arresting officer say to another officer that Raynor "tried to hit me. "
"I didn't try to hit you," Raynor said he retorted.
"Shut up," the arresting officer replied, according to Raynor.
"Don't you have no conscience? " Raynor said he persisted.
Fackelman, Henry and Snow were all charged with disorderly conduct for urinating on the concourse wall. The three pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay court costs of $22.50 apiece. (Fackelman, who said he was not urinating, said he decided to plead guilty rather than go through the time and expense of a Municipal Court hearing. )
Raynor has retained an attorney, Holly Maguigan, and he plans to file suit against the City of Philadelphia and officers Oechslin and Goldenberg.
**SINGLEG* Less than a block from where Raynor descended into the subway concourse on New Year's Day, Peter and Sarah Solmssen, two lawyers, were walking home late on Dec. 16 after a very long working day at the law firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll. As they were walking east on Spruce Street, Sarah Solmssen recalled, she saw a whirl of activity in front of the Engineers' Club at 1317 Spruce St., on the opposite side of the street from her and her husband. In the next instant, she saw several police officers.
Still on the south side of the street, across from the police, Sarah Solmssen said she saw several officers "throwing a person against a brick wall. I saw the nightsticks, and then I started running. "
By the time she had broken free of her husband's grip and crossed Spruce Street, she said, she could see a K-9 dog biting the leg of a young man who was lying inert, in a semi-fetal position, on the sidewalk in front of the Engineers' Club.
"I saw the dog's jaws moving up and down three or four times," she recalled. "No officer was attempting to get that dog off the boy. He was just lying there motionless. It was shocking. "
Peter Solmssen, who is 29, was slightly behind his wife, but with his height, 6-foot-2, he could see the boy on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back, unmoving. "The dog nearest us had his teeth embedded in this guy's leg," he said, "and you could see that the upper part of his jaws were pushed down completely on the leg. You could see the blood. "
"The K-9 officer was maintaining a taut line," Solmssen said, "and he didn't appear to be trying to get his (the dog's) attention in any way. " Solmmsen said the biting continued for at least 30 seconds and possibly for as long as a minute.
The K-9 dog, according to the official Police Department investigation report, a copy of which was obtained by The Inquirer, was King, who worked as the partner of officer Oechslin. Oechslin was one of the two arresting officers in the Raynor case.
Before attacking the boy, King also bit police officer Thomas Hoban twice on the left knee, according to the Police Department's official investigation report.
The "boy" curled up on the sidewalk was Joseph Patrick Loftus, a 6-foot- 2, 220-pound senior at Northeast Catholic High School who was working after school in the mailroom of Janney Montgomery Scott Inc., a major Center City stock brokerage. By his own account, Loftus, who is 17 years old, had had too much too drink that evening at a party at the Engineers' Club, organized and paid for by the employees of the brokerage. In fact, he had quaffed so many beers and so many mixed drinks that what he can recall about his arrest is at best hazy and imprecise.
He was charged with assaulting police, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Two adult women (one of whom is Loftus' aunt) who also worked at the brokerage viewed at close range the confrontation between Loftus and the police from start to finish. In interviews, they both said Loftus had been
profane, loud and extremely abusive to the officers, but they said they were both certain that Loftus had not struck any police officer.
Loftus, too, said in an interview that he did not strike a police officer, but that he deferred to his aunt, Sarah A. "Sally" Cullen, a soft-spoken 43-year-old secretary who has been at the brokerage since 1967.
What Loftus does remember clearly is that he somehow lost $50 in cash at the party, which put him in a bad mood. Some time before midnight, Loftus got into a dispute with another partygoer - "I only threw one or two punches," Loftus recalled - and he was ordered by the manager of the Engineers' Club to leave.
Sally Cullen, her husband, Allan, and several of Loftus' co-workers then took Loftus in tow and escorted him out of the club, according to Mrs. Cullen. It was not an easy task. "They were practically dragging him down the steps," recalled Theresa Marchese.
At 11:48 p.m., according to the police report, police officer Thomas Hoban ''responded to radio broadcast of fight on the highway at Spruce and Juniper Streets. Upon his arrival, Hoban saw the defendant lying on the sidewalk. . . . There were four males and one civilian female holding the defendant there. "
The official report is at variance with the recollections of Sally Cullen and Theresa Marchese, who said that Loftus was standing against the Engineers' Club wall and being restrained by his aunt. Meanwhile, Allan Cullen had been dispatched to pick up his car and take Loftus home.
Outside the club, Sally Cullen said, "there were police all over. Joe, of course, did not have a very pleasant mouth. He was cussing very bad. " Both women agreed that Loftus' conduct might have warranted his arrest for disorderly conduct, and that the police on the scene were, at first, very forbearing.
Marchese said that 10 minutes, perhaps more, might have elapsed from the time Loftus left the Engineers' Club until the violence began. At one point, while waiting for the car, she said, Loftus smoked a cigarette and stopped shouting altogether. "The police were very patient in the beginning," she said.
Then, Marchese said, Loftus saw "a fellow crossing Juniper Street," whom she believes he mistook for the man he had quarreled with in the club.
"Let me at him," Marchese said Loftus shouted. At this point, Sally Cullen said she had one hand on Loftus' mouth and the other hand on his chest, pressing her weight against his body to keep him from moving. Suddenly, Loftus "broke my grip and was moving forward," Cullen said. "That's when the policemen stepped in. All I know is that they started with the clubs. I can still hear the sound of the nightsticks just beating him. It was like in karate when you bang those wooden things - click, click, click, like a cracking, clicking sound. "
The police report states that Loftus swung his right fist "and directed it at his aunt" and that Hoban stepped in to deflect the blow and was then punched by Loftus. "Loftus," the report said, "then started to swing wildly at Hoban with both fists and started to fall. "
Theresa Marchese, who was standing about 10 feet away from Loftus, said she was certain that Loftus did not hit his aunt or any police officer. As Loftus broke free of his aunt, Marchese said: "The police grabbed him. One of them hit him with his nightstick, and you heard the sticks hitting one another.
"I got the chills at this point. When he was down on the ground, one officer kicked him in the head. Joe was lying face down. The dog went on him. The dog just went for his leg. He was on the ground. He wasn't going anywhere. Finally, they pulled the dog off. "
Marchese estimated that King was biting Loftus for at least two minutes and possibly as long as three minutes.
Sarah Solmssen estimated that the biting continued for at least 30 seconds and possibly as long as a minute. She said she observed officer Hoban ''pacing around very agitatedly" while the dog was mauling Loftus. "Get out of here, clear out, you're going to get hurt," she said Hoban was shouting at the crowd that had gathered around Loftus and the K-9 dog. Hoban, she said, walked to a police car parked on Spruce Street, kicked a rear passenger door and muttered, "Try to help one of these motherf- and look where it gets you. "
Horrified by what they had seen, the Solmssens walked directly home to their townhouse on Juniper Street, less than a block from the Engineers Club. Peter Solmssen said he wanted "something done about" what he and his wife had just witnessed.
"My paramount concern was the dog," he said in an interview. "Either the dog was out of control, or the dog was under control, being handled by a vicious police officer. Second, I thought the police had been out of control. The kicking and nightsticks seemed totally unnecessary, considering that the guy was manacled. "
That night, within an hour after Loftus' arrest, the Solmssens placed telephone calls to The Inquirer, the public defender's office and the district attorney's office.
Loftus was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was treated for dog-bite wounds; in addition, four stitches were placed in his forehead and X- rays were taken of his skull. When Sally Cullen arrived at Hahnemann, she said, one of her nephew's eyes was swollen shut, blood was covering his mouth, a chunk of flesh had been ripped from his upper right thigh, and his head had lumps all over from the nightsticks. She said Loftus was handcuffed to a bed.
Loftus spent the night at the Youth Study Center, where his father picked him up on the morning of Dec. 17. His case is pending in Juvenille Court. His attorney, Nino V. Tinari, said he planned to file a civil suit against Oechslin and the city.
**SINGLEG* The case of Matthew Wayne Horace, a 21-year-old, 270-pound football player at Delaware State College, is a rarity among those bitten by police K-9 dogs in that he was not charged with any violation of the law after his encounter with the K-9 unit. In most of the cases reviewed by The Inquirer, people attacked by the K-9 dogs are charged with some criminal violation, such as failing to disperse, disorderly conduct or resisting arrest, but the charges do not always result in convictions.
Medical records from Hahnemann University Hospital, where Horace was confined from June 1 to June 7, make clear the nature of his problem: "FINAL DIAGNOSIS," the records, which were examined by The Inquirer, state: "Dog bite of the right foot. "
"HISTORY OF PRESENT ILLNESS," the record continues: "The patient was a healthy, 20-year-old black male who was bitten by an unprovoked police dog. The patient was bitten on the right foot with a large avulsion of the right remedial heel, laceration laterally, no active bleeding. "
By late May last year, Matthew Horace was home for the summer after his junior year at Delaware State, in Dover. Horace, a muscular man of 6-foot-2 with bulging biceps, broad shoulders and a tapering waist, was working nights as a security guard at the Spectrum and as a bouncer at H.A. Winston & Co. restaurant in Cherry Hill. On the evening of May 31, Horace was at his parents' West Oak Lane home watching on television the fourth and - as it turned out, final - game of the NBA championship series between the 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Even though it was after midnight, Horace, who describes himself as "an athlete" and dreams of playing professional football, said he was too excited by the 76ers' victory to even consider going to sleep.
Walking to the nearby corner of 67th Street and Ogontz Avenue, Horace met some friends and shared a taxi with them to the subway stop at Broad Street and Olney Avenue to head into town.
As he walked up the subway steps and onto the pavement on the east side of City Hall, Horace said, he saw four or five police officers moving rapidly in his direction. "I figured they were chasing someone because there were people running," Horace said, "so I stepped aside. I figured this isn't the place for me. "
Horace said he took about one step into the street, noticed a K-9 dog and reversed his direction toward an island that separates traffic moving eastward onto Market Street from cars proceeding around City Hall.
But Horace had taken only a few steps when, he said, the K-9 dog sunk its teeth into his right foot between his heel and his ankle and ripped off the sneaker he was wearing. Horace, who appears sizable and strong enough to knock out a dog with one punch, said his first "intention was to grab the dog, but I remembered that I was in Philadelphia, and if I had done that, they probably would have shot me. "
Instead, Horace said he grabbed onto a pole "so I wouldn't fall, because if you fall, they can really hurt you. The officer was holding the dog's leash the whole time.
"I remember screaming, 'Get off, get off! ' "
Within 30 seconds, Horace recalled, the incident was over.
" 'What's that for? I'm an athlete,' " Horace said he asked officer Bechtel.
"Get the f- out of here," Horace said Bechtel responded.
Horace said he tried to walk, but the pain in his right foot was so sharp that he couldn't put any pressure on it. By this time, he said, a crowd had gathered around him and someone was shouting at him to lie down and wait for help to arrive.
Horace said his foot, clad only in a blood-soaked sock, was bleeding so profusely that "I thought if I would lay there, I might bleed to death. " With the help of several bystanders, Horace said, he hopped on his left foot toward the storefront arcades on the north side of Market Street, near 13th Street.
There, Horace was helped into a police van and taken to Hahnemann University Hospital. That ride is recorded on a Philadelphia Police Department incident report, a copy of which was obtained by The Inquirer, which states: ''Above taken to Hahn Hosp for foot injury. " The nature of the injury was described as a "foot cut. "
When Horace first arrived at Hahnemann, he said, his foot was so tender and swollen that he could not walk on it. During his week of hospitalization, the medical records show, physical therapy was administered in order to get Horace back on his feet.
Horace's family has retained an attorney, Arthur M. Lobel, who said he had notified the City of Philadelphia that Horace would be filing suit against officer Bechtel.
**SINGLEG* In a 1980 civil case filed by a 25-year-old Philadelphia man who had been attacked by a K-9 dog named Stormy, the city turned over to the plaintiff's attorney, Beverly K. Thompson, a list of the dog bites recorded during fiscal year 1983 - from July 1, 1982, through July 1, 1983. The list, which is dated Sept. 13, 1983, contains a total of 46 "recorded dog bites" in the 12-month period.
Oechslin, whose dog, King, attacked both Steve Raynor and Joseph Loftus in a two-week period this winter, has six of the 46 bites.
None of the other 22 K-9 officers recorded on the list has more than six bites; one other man has six.
In other words, Oechslin was responsible for 13 percent of the dog-bite cases - almost one out of every seven - recorded in fiscal year 1983, according to the Police Department's own records.
But The Inquirer's review of the K-9 cases has disclosed that the dog-bite data are understated and incomplete. The list includes neither the name of Matthew Horace nor that of Kenneth Donald Curtis, the bookbinder with the U.S. Navy who met Macho at 13th and Locust Streets on Sept. 12, 1982, at 2:30 a.m.
It does, however, include the name of Veronica Jones. She was bitten by Macho about 1 a.m. on the same night that Macho bit Don Curtis. Other than their coincidental encounters with Bechtel that night, Curtis and Ms. Jones had something else in common: They did not have any criminal records.
**SINGLEG* Veronica Jones, a 34-year-old North Philadelphia woman, was attending a birthday party for her niece Latonia Brown at El Caberlero bar, 1402 Ridge Ave., which is located almost at the corner of Broad Street and Ridge Avenue. Ms. Jones, who stands 5-foot-1 1/2 and weighs 122 pounds, was with her mother, Geraldine Brown; a family friend she knows only as "Mr. B.," and her son Gary.
As Veronica Jones recalled in an interview, the partygoers in the bar heard that someone was fighting outside. The Police Department's official investigation report states that police officer Michael Mander observed "a fight on the highway at Brd. & Ridge Ave. The officers broke up the fight and instructed the participants to disperse. There was a large crowd at this location. "
Bechtel, according to the report, and "Macho #339 went into the crowd and attempted to help the other officers disperse the crowd. "
''When I got out," Ms. Jones said, "a couple people were breaking up the fight. Then the police rode up. " Both she and her son said the officers left their vehicles with their guns drawn and ordered the onlookers back into the bar.
The instant she saw the weapons, Ms. Jones said, she and her mother began retreating into the bar. The police report, prepared by a police detective, quoted Bechtel as stating that Ms. Jones was "yelling and screaming that she was not going to move," an assertion that Ms. Jones categorically denied. ''As scared as I was when they jumped out of their cars and vans with those guns," Ms. Jones said, "they looked like they were going to kill a couple of those niggers tonight; I just wanted to get into that bar."
There are two small steps leading into the entrance of El Caberlero and Ms. Jones said that she and her 53-year-old mother, who was holding on to her right arm, were about to mount the first step when Macho grabbed the back of Mrs. Brown's dress.
Ms. Jones said that as she attempted to tug her mother into the bar, "I felt it bite. I felt something sharp going into the inside of my leg. I hollered: 'Mother, the dog bit me! ' I started to pull my mother. I was trying to get anywhere away from that dog. "
At this point, Gary Jones, 20, said, "I just reacted. I just kicked it. The dog turned around and tried to bite the cop. " At the same time, Gary said, Bechtel was holding on to Macho's leash with one hand and trying to grab him with his free hand.
Gary Jones was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals. Court records show that he was fined $10 and ordered to pay $2.50 incourt costs.
Veronica Jones said she walked back into the bar, with the dog bites bleeding into her ripped light-blue summer pants. Even now, 2 1/2 years after the incident, there are still three distinct, dark scars on the back of Ms. Jones' calf. Geraldine Brown, according to the official police report, said that inside the bar she "told a cop that my daughter had been bitten by a police dog. He told me to 'catch a . . . cab. ' "
Spurned by the police officer, Ms. Jones said, she enlisted Mr. B. to give her a ride to Hahnemann. When she left the bar, Ms. Jones was not under arrest. But officer Bechtel, the police report shows, was intent on charging her. After Gary Jones kicked Macho, the report stated, Bechtel was hit in the head by a bottle that had been thrown by one of the people involved in the original fight.
"When the officer turned around to look for the lady," the report states, ''she was gone. The officer who was going to arrest Ms. Jones found out later that she had been taken to Hahnemann Hospital. He proceeded to Hahnemann Hospital and placed her under arrest. "
In fact, Ms. Jones said, it was not Bechtel, but two other officers who arrived in the emergency room about 2 a.m. and informed her that she was under arrest for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
Officer Bechtel, court records show, was about to meet Don Curtis at 13th and Locust Streets.
Because she had no criminal record, Ms. Jones was placed in a special program for nonviolent men and women who have been charged with a criminal offense for the first time. The program, known as ARD - which stands for accelerated rehabilitative disposition - provides that a person's arrest record will be expunged, if he or she is not charged with any additional crimes for a specific period, usually six months. The record of Ms. Jones' arrest has been expunged.
**SINGLEG* Bechtel's case against Kenneth Donald Curtis, like his case against Veronica Jones, also was referred to the ARD program, and today the record of that arrest has been expunged. (The district attorney's office withdrew the one felony count against him. ) Like Veronica Jones, Curtis still bears the scars of Macho's teeth, on his left forearm and his left thigh. And he still agonizes and broods over what he perceives as the injustice of what happened on the night of Sept. 12, 1982.
"When you logically think about it," Curtis reflected in an interview in his mother's neat rowhouse in Wynnefield, "how can you threaten a man with a gun, a stick and a dog? I mean who arrests them (the police)? The only one they have to answer to is their superiors. "
Because of those feelings, Curtis said, he instructed his attorney, Holly Maguigan, who represented him in his criminal case, to file a lawsuit against the city and Bechtel. The suit was filed on Jan. 12 in Common Pleas Court.
In September 1982, Curtis, a widower who lives with his mother and young daughter, drove into Center City with two of his cousins from Westmoreland, Va., and one of their friends. Their destination was Whispers, a discotheque at 214 S. 13th St.
As it turned out, Curtis' cousins - Chris and Tommy Thompson, who are 26 and 27, respectively - went to Whispers, and Curtis and a friend, Tim Kelly, 25, went to a club next door. Some time after the club's 2 a.m. closing time, Curtis said, he walked by himself to pick up his car at a lot on Locust Street and parked it closer to the two clubs.
Kelly, a truck driver from Richmond, Va., said in an interview that people were streaming out of the two clubs and "these cops came along chasing people off the street with these dogs. " He said people in the crowd began jeering at the police for unnecessarily threatening the men and women leaving the
Curtis, who was walking slightly ahead of his friends, described the scene this way: "By this time, the cops were outside the club, and they seemed to be sicking dogs on people. I just couldn't believe my eyes. So, by this time, I had slowed to a real slow walk. This guy was hollering, 'Move it! Move it!' at the top of his lungs. I was just walking, looking at this guy. "
Bechtel's complaint against Curtis, on file in Municipal Court, states that Curtis "did unlawfully refuse to disperse from the area of 13th and Locust St. when instructed numerous times by the arresting officer. When informed that he was under arrest, he walked away from the officer. "
The complaint adds that when Curtis was finally placed under arrest, people in the crowd started "throwing bottles at the officer. " It was the second time in 90 minutes - according to Bechtel - that an unruly crowd had hurled bottles at him and Macho.
Curtis, who is 6 feet tall and weighs about 140 pounds, said he never refused any order from Bechtel. Instead, he said, Bechtel was yelling at him to "move it, move it! "
"I turned around," Curtis said, "and I said, 'I am moving. ' "
"Not fast enough," Bechtel retorted, according to Curtis.
"I think I'm moving fast enough," Curtis said he replied.
With that, Curtis said, "He let the leash go, and the dog knocked me on the ground. "
Chris Thompson, a computer engineer who lives in Forestville, Md., said he was about 25 feet away from Curtis when the confrontation occurred. He has a slightly different recollection of the initial contact between Bechtel and his cousin. "I saw the cop grab Donald from behind, by the shirt collar, and he flung him to the ground. Then, he turned the dog on him. He kept saying 'Get that nigger. Get that nigger. ' "
Tommy Thompson estimated that Macho gnawed at Curtis' body for "a good four minutes. " Chris Thompson said the "dog was on Don for at least one to two minutes. " There is no difference between them, however, on the issue of whether Curtis ever tried to fight back. They both said he did not. "He wasn't putting up any resistance or anything," Tommy Thompson said. "The dog was just chewing on him. "
One person on the scene who did not know Curtis was Milton Evans, 20, an unemployed man who lives on South 15th Street. Evans said he was so distressed by what he had witnessed that he gave his telephone number to Curtis' cousins and volunteered to be a witness on Curtis' behalf.
Evans said he did not witness the intitial contact between Bechtel and Curtis, but he vividly recalled what happened when Macho attacked Curtis. "I seen the one cop let his dog attack that man," Evans said in an interview. ''The guy couldn't go anywhere. He couldn't do nothing. "
Tommy Thompson said that when Macho released Curtis, the police placed nightsticks under each of his arms, propped him up and "put him in the paddy wagon. "
Medical records from Metropolitan Hospital, where Curtis was treated that night, state that he sustained "multiple dog bites of the left forearm and left thigh."
**SINGLEG* Fourteen months before Don Curtis' arrest, officer Bechtel made another arrest outside Whispers. Like Don Curtis, the person arrested - Mark Sadler, a 30-year-old Sharon Hill man - had never been arrested before. Like Curtis, Sadler was bitten on the left arm by Bechtel's K-9 dog, Ace Number 8.
Ace was retired soon after the Sadler arrest because he was not sufficiently aggressive, according to a deposition given by Bechtel in Sadler's civil suit against him and the city. The officer said the decision to retire Ace occurred after the dog ran alongside two robbery suspects and ''refused to apprehend them. "
Sadler was charged with disorderly conduct, simple assault, aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He was acquitted on all charges by Municipal Court Judge James G. Colins at a trial on April 12, 1982, after two independent witnesses who had never met Sadler contradicted Bechtel's assertion that there had been a large, unruly crowd outside Whispers at the time of the arrest. The two witnesses also disputed Bechtel's account of his encounter with Sadler.
Barbara Chambliss, a 28-year-old employee of the Philadelphia Streets Department's payroll division, was one of those two witnesses. Compare the scene on July 4, 1981, at 13th and Locust Streets that she recalled in an interview with the one which Bechtel described in his testimony at Sadler's
criminal trial in April 1982.
Bechtel: "We received a call for a large, disorderly crowd at 13th and Locust. When I got there, there was approximately 75 to 100 people on all four corners of 13th and Locust. . . . I got out of my car with my dog, and I proceeded to move the crowds from the intersection. . . . Everyone moved except the defendant, Mr. Sadler. "
Ms. Chambliss: "It was basically pretty quiet because it was a holiday weekend. There were just me and three girl friends and two cops, one on the corner of 13th and Locust and the other with his dog. "
Bechtel testified at the trial that he "asked him (Sadler) three times to move. He didn't. I told him to get into the club or else leave the area. He began to leave. Then, he turned and stopped. He turned and walked two steps, just stood there again, and I told him to leave. He refused to leave. I told him he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. "
That is not at all what Ms. Chambliss, her friend Donna Brown and Mark Sadler recalled. (Sadler's attorneys, Alan A. Turner and Andrew E. DiPiero Jr., said their client did not want to be interviewed about his arrest, so Sadler's account is taken entirely from his court testimony. )
Sadler testified that he had just had a sandwich at the Eagle II restaurant on Broad Street and decided to take a walk before returning to his car, which was parked at 17th and Walnut Streets.
"As I was walking up 13th Street," Sadler testified, "a young, polite lady" approached him and asked for instructions to Germantown. Sadler testified that his conversation was interrupted by a police officer with a K- 9 dog, who "told us to clear the area. "
The woman began walking north toward Market Street, and Sadler testified that he began walking south. "At that point, the officer kept staring at me. He must have thought I said something or committed a crime or something," Sadler said.
Sadler was clearly apprehensive. "I could hear the dog start snapping back and forth. I turned around. I thought at the time he was going to let the dog loose. And then I kept walking. Then he said, 'Come here motherf-, come here or I'll turn the dog loose on you. ' "
Ms. Chambliss' testimony at the trial closely paralleled Sadler's: "As I was walking south on 13th Street about to enter Whispers, I noticed a young man walking towards me. As he was about to pass, a cop said: 'Come here, mf. ' "
Donna Brown, one of Ms. Chambliss' three companions that night, also testified at Sadler's trial. Like Ms. Chambliss, she said she had never seen Sadler before the incident. She testified that she heard the officer ''request Mark to walk faster. At first, Mark kept walking. Then, the officer stopped and said, 'Come here, you motherf-. ' Mark kept walking. He said, 'You better come here, or I'm going to let this dog go. ' "
With that, Ms. Chambliss said, Bechtel released his dog from the leash. ''After he let the dog go," she said in an interview, "it was like panic. I didn't know whether the dog was going to bite me or not. I got bitten by a dog once, and that was enough for me. "
Ms. Chambliss said she and her three friends hurried into a vestibule at the entranceway to Whispers. Sadler testified that he "started running. I ran in the Whispers discotheque. I had no other place to run. "
Bechtel, Sadler testified, raced into the vestibule behind him. "He took his nightstick out and started swinging it around. I got hit . . . and then he punched me in the face. He took his nightstick out and started swinging it around. He was all over me, and I tried to push him back. . . . "
By this time, Sadler and the women said, more police officers had arrived at the scene, and Sadler was dragged out of the vestibule. "I had my head down and my knees rolled up," Sadler testified, "and he (Bechtel) pulled me out, and I didn't know the dog was outside. I got bit on the left arm. "
Sadler was arrested and then transported to Hahnemann University Hospital, where medical records show that he was treated for contusions on the scalp and chest and a dog-bite wound on the left arm.
After his acquittal, Sadler filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia, and his attorneys decided to have the case heard by a court- appointed panel of three lawyers. (This arbitration procedure is designed to resolve many civil cases in which the claim is between $1,000 and $20,000. )
On Sept. 3, 1983, the panel, which was chaired by Mary McNeill Zell, awarded Sadler $9,742.50. The city has appealed the award, and the case has been assigned for trial to Common Pleas Court Judge Bernard J. Goodheart.
Zell, who presided over the trial-type procedure, said in a interview that ''my feeling was that Bechtel was out of control. There's absolutely no question about it: That boy was not doing anything wrong. He was found not guilty by a court, and the civilian witnesses - God! - they took time out from their jobs to come down here and testify for him. I believe them.
"For someone who didn't jump when he was told to jump, it's unfortunate for him and it's unfortunate for the officer. At some point, there's bound to come some disciplinary action against him."
**SINGLEG* Not many men and women who challenge criminal charges against them are fortunate enough to have independent witnesses with the credibility and precise memories of the women in the Sadler case. Irvin Sheard, whose February 1982 case is related in a federal civil suit filed against Officer Bechtel, is one one of the less fortunate. But he was still able to convince a judge that he was innocent.
Sheard, 34, was arrested Feb. 8, 1982, behind a State Store at 1100 Spring Garden St. when police responded to a report of an attempted burglary there. He was charged with burglary, criminal trespass, attempted theft, conspiracy and possessing an instrument of crime. Even though there were no independent witnesses for his defense, Sheard was acquitted on all criminal charges on June 21, 1982.
Several hours after his arrest, he was taken to Metropolitan Hospital, where he remained for one week with dog-bite wounds on both arms and legs and numbness in his left hand and left arm.
In February, Sheard's attorney, James W. Wilson, filed suit against Bechtel, former Police Commissioner Morton B. Solomon and the City of Philadelphia.
The charges against Sheard, Wilson alleged in the civil suit, "were brought . . . for the purpose of discouraging any claim Plaintiff might make against the defendants and were brought pursuant to a known custom of the Philadelphia Police Department. " In plain English, what Wilson alleged was that the police had charged Sheard to justify the injuries he sustained and to discourage him from filing a civil suit against the city. In the argot of the Police Department, those charges are known as "cover charges. "
Wilson should know about the nature of "cover charges. " As an assistant district attorney for three years, Wilson said in an interview, "I do know
from my experience that it certainly happens. It's clear to me that the police overcharge and bring cover charges whenever they commit these kinds of
violent acts. "
Aside from the police on the scene, Sheard is the only person who can testify to what transpired in the vacant lot where he was taken into custody. According to the civil suit, Sheard and his friend David Briggs were at the
intersection of 11th and Spring Garden Streets when they "observed flashing
lights and heard sirens from police vehicles coming in their direction" and walked to a lot behind a vacant building at 1102 Spring Garden St. and went inside.
One of the officers responding to the call was Bechtel, who by this time was working with K-9 dog Macho, Ace Number 8 having been retired for a lack of aggressiveness. Sheard said in an interview that he had gone into the lot to urinate and, moments later, heard a great deal of noise.
"I saw the cop cars out on the lot," Sheard said in an interview. "They had their guns out, flashlights and a dog. " Sheard said a police officer spotted him, and that he emerged from the shadows with his hands up. While he approached the police, Sheard said, Bechtel's K-9 dog brushed by him and sped into an abandoned building into which Briggs had disappeared.
"Here I am. Here I am," he recalled stating as he surrendered himself to Bechtel.
Bechtel, he said, shouted to his fellow officers: "Here he is. I got one right here. " Then, Sheard said, Bechtel patted him down and turned him over to the another officer, who held him at gunpoint.
Sheard said Bechtel then walked into the abandoned building and returned with Macho to where he was standing. "You give up, all right," Sheard quoted Bechtel as saying. With that, Sheard said, "he sicked the dog on me. It was cold-blooded.
"Get 'em boy! Get 'em," Bechtel commanded, according to Sheard. "That's a good boy. That's right. Eat 'em. Eat 'em up. Eat his black ass. " Sheard said that the K-9 dog dragged him into a shack that adjoined the abandoned building and that he tried "to play like I was unconscious.
"They let him go on me for a good five minutes - maybe seven minutes," Sheard said. "I'm not exaggerating. The sad part of it is that the dog acted like it didn't want to attack me. "
As he lay there on the floor of the shack, Sheard said, he thought to
himself: "Am I going to die here? Are they going to get away with it? I thought it was curtains. " Then, he said that he heard one officer say, "I don't want anything to do with this" and that the officer began to walk away
from the lot.
At that point, Sheard said, "I got up. " The dog, he said, still had its teeth tightly embedded in his left triceps. He said he grabbed on to the departing officer, and it was only then that the K-9 dog was removed from his body.
Briggs, according to Sheard, had run inside the empty building at 1102 Spring Garden St. and dived out of a window.
Sheard said he was first taken to the Central Police Division headquarters at 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and then transported to Metropolitan Hospital, where he stayed for one week.
During his hospital stay, Sheard said, one of his visitors was Bechtel. ''He said, 'The monster should have finished the job,' " Sheard said.
Sheard's civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court, has been assigned to Judge Clifford Scott Green.
**SINGLEG* Like Sheard, the eyewitnesses to the arrest on Feb. 17, 1983, of Terrance Morton, 18, are the defendant and the arresting police officers, who constituted an undercover unit known as a "grandpop squad," which was led by undercover officer Edward W. Cottrell, who played the role of the decoy.
The grandpop squad is a highly publicized and sometimes controversial unit, consisting of a decoy disguised as an elderly derelict in ragged garb and three backup officers in street clothes. The mission of such a team is to arrest muggers who attack the decoy.
Most of what happened on the night of Feb. 17 on the narrow 1300 block of Cuthbert Street in Center City is in dispute. But there are certain facts that all participants in the arrest can agree upon:
* Morton, who was a juvenile at the time of his arrest for allegedly assaulting and robbing Cottrell, pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court to charges of delinquency.
* Both Morton and Cottrell were admitted to Hahnemann University Hospital on the night of Feb. 17. Cottrell, according to confidential Juvenile Court records obtained by The Inquirer, sustained a puncture wound of the right knee. Morton, Hahnemann medical records show, had three puncture wounds of the left forearm, the result of being bitten by K-9 dog Bear, the partner of officer Charles Mellor.
* Morton was at least the third person arrested by the Cottrell team in less than six weeks who had been bitten so severely by Bear that he required hospital treatment, according to court records.
* The Cottrell grandpop squad, with Mellor as the K-9 officer, ceased working together as a unit after the night that Morton was arrested.
Morton said in an interview that he did not try to rob Cottrell or assault him, but that he pleaded guilty because of his mother's instructions. Both his mother, Joan Morton, and his attorney, Marvin H. Levin, confirmed that the plea was entered because Mrs. Morton told her son to do so.
One major factual dispute in the Morton case involves how Cottrell sustained the puncture wound on his right knee. Morton said in an interview that as he approached Cottrell, the decoy started screaming, "Give me back my money! Give me back my money! "
Seconds later, Morton said, he was being held at gunpoint by one of Cottrell's backup officers. Then, Morton said, he saw Mellor and Bear walking toward him. "He said something and pointed to me," Morton recalled. "He let the dog go. The dog ran over to the guy I was supposed to have robbed," Cottrell. Morton said he watched as the K-9 dog grabbed Cottrell.
Cottrell, Morton continued, "yelled a couple of times. Then, he just sat there like he was really, really hurt. He might have been. "
The Juvenile Court records, which are based on a statement by Cottrell, provide a totally different version of how Cottrell was injured: Morton, the report states, approached Cottrell and demanded his money. When Cottrell refused, Morton "punched him on the right side of the head. This punch caused him to fall to the ground and his right knee went under the fence. The point on the fence went into the inside of his knee. "
The other major difference in the police account of the arrest and Morton's centers on how Morton sustained his injuries.
The police version, as recounted in the Juvenile Court records, states that Morton ran west on Cuthbert Street after Cottrell began yelling. Morton said that after Mellor pulled Bear off Cottrell, "he sicked the dog on me. "
Morton said one police officer held him at gunpoint while Bear gnawed through the left sleeve of his thick trench coat and sunk its teeth into Morton's forearm. The dark discolorations left by the wounds are still clearly visible slightly below Morton's left elbow. The area is still tender, Morton said. "That's how I know it's going to rain."
**SINGLEG* Three days after Joseph N. Halbherr was mauled on May 4, 1980, by police K- 9 dog Stormy, he received the following letter from Assistant District Attorney Arthur R. Shuman Jr.: "The district attorney's office has reviewed the charges against you and has decided to withdraw prosecution in this matter. Accordingly, you need not attend court on the date and time scheduled. "
So ended the criminal case against Halbherr, 25, a lifelong resident of the Lawncrest neighborhood, who had been charged by K-9 officer Stephen Gubicza with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.
Had the decision been Halbherr's, he said, he would have forgotten the matter once and for all when he received Shuman's letter. Of course, the scars left by Stormy's teeth on his arms and legs would remind him of the incident for years, but at least his good name had been left intact.
Halbherr's parents, however, were not satisified, and they retained attorney Beverly K. Thompson for their son to file suit against Gubicza and the City of Philadelphia. The case is scheduled to come to trial within the next few weeks in U.S. District Court before Chief Judge Luongo.
Halbherr's story is like many others in The Inquirer's review of K-9 cases in that a K-9 officer had been called to the scene of a disturbance in order to control the crowd.
A tall, athletic man of 6-foot-1, Halbherr said in an interview that he and several Lawncrest friends had been attending a beef-and-beer party at the Ukrainian-American club at Franklin and Poplar Streets. Early that Sunday evening, Halbherr said, a full-scale brawl had broken out in a field behind the club, pitting some of his friends from Lawncrest against the club members.
Halbherr, who was friendly with men on both sides, said it "was a weird thing, because they were fighting in the middle of a field and I was sitting at a picnic table. "
At 8:10 p.m., according to the Police Department's official investigation report, Gubicza responded to a "double assist-officer call" to help other police officers on the scene control the crowd. Both Halbherr's and Gubicza's descriptions of the scene outside the club make it clear that the police had a potential riot to quell.
"For once," Halbherr said, "I decided to stay totally out of it. " As Halbherr recalled - and his recollection is corroborated by two of his friends who were with him that evening - he and his friends were leaving for their cars. In retrospect, Halbherr's critical mistake, he said, was to delay his departure for several minutes in order to make sure that none of his closest friends was going to be left behind.
Suddenly, Halbherr said, Gubicza and his K-9 "came at us straight on. When the dog started coming at us, all the girls let out a shriek. They turned and ran, but they didn't run fast enough for me. "
As Halbherr began to run, he found his path blocked by the men and women in front of him. "It was almost just like a wall of people," he said. "I put my hands up to push somebody away, which I never got to do. Then I felt the dog pulling at my pant leg. "
Halbherr turned around, he said, and Stormy leaped at his chest. Halbherr recalled that he put up his right forearm in order to fend off the dog, which began to bite him. After a few moments, Halbherr said, he extricated his right arm from Stormy's jaws and used his left arm to keep the dog from mauling him further.
Gubicza's official report states that when Halbherr was told to "get back
from police, he came toward Gubicza and the dog and was bitten on the leg while punching and kicking the dog. "
Halbherr and his friends dispute the officer's assertion that Halbherr moved toward Gubicza. Mike Dolan, a friend and neighbor of Halbherr's, was standing about five feet away from him when he was attacked by the dog.
"He (Halbherr) was trying to get out of there," Dolan said. "The dog jumped up and apparently got away from him (Gubicza). It looked to me like he let him go. He just said, 'Get him! ' "
Halbherr, who plays defensive back for Bill's Lawncrest Tavern and once was a starting pitcher for Cardinal Dougherty High School, said he finally decided to fight back against the dog. "I had the dog down," Halbherr said, describing how he was restraining Stormy with one hand on its throat and another on its body. At this point, he said, he turned to Gubicza and said: ''Yo, I ain't doin' nothing. Just get the dog off me. I ain't going nowhere. "
Halbherr said he tried to push the dog away. Seconds later, Halbherr said, the dog grabbed one of his legs from behind and began mauling him again. ''That really stung," Halbherr recalled.
The only words that Halbherr remembered Gubizca saying were, "Get him," the two words many handlers use to signal K-9 dogs to attack. "The only thing he said was, 'Get him. ' He must have said it at least five times - maybe more. "
Halbherr was bitten on the right calf, the inside of the right thigh and both forearms. Later that night, he was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital for treatment.
Shuman, who is now a deputy district attorney for special projects, said in an interview that he did not specifically remember Halbherr's case. However, he said that his standards at the time made Halbherr's arrest a natural for withdrawing prosecution. Shuman said the first requirement was that the defendant did not have a criminal record.
If that were the case, Shuman said, "if somebody got locked up for failure to disperse or disorderly conduct - that kind of thing - and it appeared from the facts and circumstances that the police officer was not giving him a break on the charges, then I figured that the night spent in jail and all the problems of getting arrested were sufficient punishment, and I withdrew the charges."