Newark, OH – The video footage is gruesome, and the photos of the resulting injuries are horrific—a former teacher has now filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Newark and the police officer who unleashed an attack dog on her, and she is claiming she was not breaking any laws, and posed no threat to police at the time.
Ashley Zuress, 31, was the passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over for a traffic violation in March 2016. When the driver, her boyfriend Jeffrey Grooms, got out of the vehicle and fled the scene, she said police said nothing to her about staying where she was. Because she was not the one responsible for the violation, she climbed into the driver’s seat and began to drive away.
According to the lawsuit, as reported by the Newark Advocate, after Zuress left the scene, she was pulled over by police who told her to get out of the car and walk backwards to them. While it is not clear what Grooms’ status was, or if he had been apprehended by police, Officers Dave Burris and April Fleming appear to be the ones involved in the original traffic stop, who then went after Zuress.
"Ms. Zuress turned to face away from (Officer) who then ordered her to walk backwards toward him," the lawsuit stated. "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 officers claimed Zuress was not complying, and they responded by bringing a K9 officer to her car and letting the dog bite her arm repeatedly, as she was taken to the ground. While the officers’ dash cam does not appear to have captured the entire scene on video, it did capture the audio of Zuress’ reaction as she was mauled by the attack dog.
"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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As a result of the arrest, Zuress was charged with two crimes—misdemeanor counts of obstructing official business and failure to comply. The Newark Advocate reported that she pled guilty to both counts, by way of a plea deal, and she was sentenced to a suspended 30-day jail sentence. But that pales in comparison to the physical damage Zuress suffered.
The lawsuit alleged that the officers used excessive force by taking Zuress "forcibly and painfully to the ground where [the attack dog] continued to bite Ms. Zuress' arm while Defendant Burris and other officers forcefully placed [her] in handcuffs."
Zuress required medical attention after the arrest, and she was treated for deep cuts that resulted in more than a dozen staples. She now suffers from permanent nerve damage, scaring, and limited mobility.
"I felt like from that video, everything in my life was over. I have an ugly scar on my arm that can't go away. It can't be fixed,” Zuress told the local ABC affiliate, noting that she also lost her job as a teacher at a Columbus charter school after the incident.
As The Free Thought Project has reported, police officers have a habit of releasing their K9 officers on suspects who clearly pose no threat of violence to the officers. In one recent account, a man was mauled by an attack dog while surrendering, after he was approached by police over an alleged parole violation. Even after video footage was released that showed the man on his knees, with his hands behind his head when police released the attack dog, the man was only awarded $17,000—all of which was paid for by taxpayers.
Watch the Dash Cam footage below: