Indianapolis, IN – A shocking case in which a pregnant mother was brutally attacked by a police dog has become even more disturbing after a U.S. district court judge ruled that the woman’s rights were not violated because she was an “innocent bystander” during the incident.
Mara Mancini was standing on the front porch of her home in July 2015 when she was attacked by a police dog that was chasing a suspect through her neighborhood. She was 7 months pregnant at the time, and the attack resulted in severe wounds to her arm and leg, according to a report from the IndyStar.
Mancini had to have multiple surgeries, and she said she was left with extensive scar tissue, and she now battles fiery aches and pains on a regular basis. The attack caused her to go into premature labor, and while doctors were able to prevent her baby from being born then, she went into labor again after she had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a golf ball-sized infection in her leg.
She said that because of the pharmaceutical painkillers she was prescribed, her son was born with a narcotics addiction, and he spent several weeks in neonatal intensive care as a result.
Given the fact that Mancini was an innocent bystander when she was viciously attacked by the police dog, she said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department promised it would cover all of her medical expenses. However, she filed a lawsuit against the department in August 2016, claiming she had received nothing and her medical expenses had surpassed $100,000.
Mancini’s lawsuit claimed the attack violated her Constitutional liberties, and she also attempted to challenge the law in the state of Indiana, which grants immunity to police dogs by stating that they are exempt from the “dog bite liability statute” because they are owned by a government agency, and because the dog was "engaged in assisting the owner or the owner's agent in the performance of law enforcement or military duties."
"In Indiana, by law, and by previous precedent, police dogs can run amok without any form of redress for people," Mancini's attorney, Jon Little, told the IndyStar in 2016. "That's why we're bringing a federal claim for deprivation of liberty for the time she was being mauled by the dog, the literal time she was being mauled by the dog. If this doesn't work, there is absolutely no way for her to sue, or anyone to sue, in Indiana when they are brutalized by a police dog."
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In a confusing judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt wrote that while the attack was horrific, Mancini's constitutional rights were not violated because she was not the suspect in the chase.
"Mancini and her son K.C., suffered horrendous injuries and a grievous lack of discretion by the officers; however, a grievous lack of discretion does not suffice to state a constitutional cause of action under binding Seventh Circuit precedent," Pratt wrote.
The judge admitted that Mancini was an "unintended bystander," but attempted to justify the decision by claiming that because the police officer had not directed force at Mancini, her Fourth Amendment rights were not violated.
"The undisputed evidence is that Mancini was not the intended object of the officers’ efforts to seize the fleeing suspect," Pratt wrote. "[The officer's] release of Scooter, intending to seize the fleeing suspect does not mean that the officers intended to seize any other person."
As The Free Thought Project has reported, not only are police dogs often responsible for vicious attacks that either go far beyond what was necessary to subdue the suspect or leave innocent bystanders with severe injuries, but the dogs themselves are often the subjects of abuse at the hands of police officers:
“The use of dogs in police business is inhumane both for the animals, and the suspects who they are often unleashed on. Our society shuns animal abusers and people who raise dogs specifically for fighting, and rightfully so, but how are police dogs any different than an attack dog than a street gang breeds to be as aggressive as possible, for the purpose of winning money in dogfights and intimidating rivals?
In many cases, these animals are often treated as nothing more than disposable weapons by the police that are in charge of caring for them. In fact, it is sadly common for police officers to get accused of animal cruelty for abusing or neglecting their dogs. Just this week The Free Thought Project reported that an officer was caught on video abusing his own search dog when the animal failed to signal for drugs at a traffic stop. It is also common for police to leave their dogs in hot cars for extended periods of time until they die.”
While the current status of the police dog who attacked her is unknown, Mara Mancini is left with the overwhelming financial burden of the medical bills, along with the physical scars that will stay with her for the rest of her life. Her attorney noted that while a state-level case is still pending and they are deciding whether to appeal Pratt's ruling, she is now on the verge of being forced to declare bankruptcy.
"The city should be ashamed of themselves," he said.