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.”
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