Dog attack witness: Police K9 was “vicious”

Neighbors Raymond Shackelford and Bridget Brown Shackelford witnessed a police K9 attack a 13-year-old girl and Bridget held the girl until the ambulance came. Photo by Samantha Baars Neighbors Raymond Shackelford and Bridget Brown Shackelford witnessed a police K9 attack a 13-year-old girl and Bridget held the girl until the ambulance came. Photo by Samantha Baars

Thursday night, a K9 from the Charlottesville Police Department was accidentally released from the back of a patrol car on the 700 block of Prospect Avenue where it bit a 13-year-old girl several times, breaking the skin and requiring stitches, according to Captain Gary Pleasants.

“The dog was vicious,” says Bridget Brown Shackelford, a neighbor who saw the attack.

Shackelford says the dog attacked the girl for about a minute, while the girl screamed and latched onto an officer for help. The attack ended when an officer got the dog under control.

Shackelford held the hysterical girl until her mother arrived and the ambulance came. The girl’s trauma was evident.  “She was shaking so bad, my body was shaking,” says Shackelford, who notes the girl told her she was afraid of dogs and screamed it several times as she was being attacked.

Shackelford says the officers on duty were quick to say the attack wasn’t anyone’s fault.

The dog is a 3-year-old Dutch shepherd and one of two dogs in Charlottesville’s K9 unit, according to Pleasants.

The officers on Prospect Avenue were initially investigating a vehicle with a stolen license plate when they smelled marijuana and called for a K9 unit. The unit arrived and and the dog’s handler inspected the suspicious vehicle before going back to his patrol car to get the K9. He unintentionally touched his car’s automatic release and the back opened, releasing the unleashed dog.

The dog then ran directly to a group of people that included the girl.

“It was an accident,” Pleasants says. He believes the dog reacted to a quick movement made by someone in the group, causing it to attack.

The police department is not naming the officer who released the K9 from the vehicle, but says the officer tried to call for the K9 and it did not respond.

The K9 is currently in the handler’s care, according to Pleasants.