A federal civil jury found today that a Prince George's County police canine officer should not be held liable for a 1997 incident in which his police dog bit a Bowie teenager 33 times.
After a three-day trial, a nine-member jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before deciding that Cpl. David Favors should not be held liable for the July 31, 1997, incident in which his police canine, Rony, attacked Julie Anne Brown.
The attack occurred about 2 a.m. inside the Robert Goddard Middle School in Lanham, where Brown, then 17, and two acquaintances had climbed through an open window to buy sodas and use the restroom, according to trial testimony.
The teenagers set off a silent alarm that alerted police. Favors, 36, testified that after he gave an amplified warning outside the building, he went inside with Rony and let the dog search for intruders.
Brown, now a 19-year-old sophomore at Towson State, and Lacey Knauer, now a freshman at the University of Maryland, both testified that they were hiding behind a desk when the dog came into the room.
Favors, a 10-year veteran, testified that his dog bit Brown when she suddenly jumped over the desk, tried to run away and then fought with the dog. Brown and Knauer both testified that Brown did not run or try to fight the dog. Another officer who was at the scene, John Willie Ivey Jr., testified that he was busy arresting Knauer and did not see Brown try to flee or fight the dog.
The officer was defended by Assistant County Attorney Laura J. Gwinn. "The jury clearly made the right decision in this case," said Deputy County Attorney John Bielec.
"I'm very disappointed," said Terrell N. Roberts III, Brown's attorney. "This doesn't say much for a system that allows an officer to put a dog on a juvenile who poses no threat."
The verdict marked the second time in less than three weeks that a Baltimore civil jury has found that a Prince George's County police canine officer should not be held liable for an attack by his dog.
There are still at least 12 civil lawsuits alleging brutality pending against members of the county's canine unit. In addition, the FBI is investigating whether the canine corps has engaged in a pattern of excessive force.