Officer reprimanded for releasing K-9, which bit 10-year-old boy

Cpl. Timothy Durst made a judgment error in freeing his dog by failing to verify that a reported crime occurred.

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:38 p.m.

The Gainesville police officer who let his dog loose on a 10-year-old boy resulting in bites to the child's leg has been reprimanded by the department.

Cpl. Timothy Durst made a judgment error in freeing his dog by failing to verify that a reported crime occurred and failing to verify that the description of the boy matched the reported suspects, according to an internal affairs report released Thursday.

Chief Tony Jones told The Sun that the reprimand was the appropriate punishment given the policies in place at the time. He added that new guidelines regarding the release of police dogs have been implemented.

"I think that when you look at the policies in place, if I had to freeze-frame it to that date and time, the reprimand was all I could do," Jones said.

The boy, Bryce Bates of the 3300 block of Northwest 21st Drive, was bitten on Aug. 8, 2010.

The incident began about 3:20 p.m. with a burglary-in-progress call in the 3400 block of Northwest 21st Drive. Police later learned the call was false.

Durst, with his dog Grady, saw a youngster later identified as Bryce on a bicycle in the area. Police say Durst yelled for the boy to stop. Durst then released his dog, which bit Bryce.

Bryce and his parents said at the time that he had gotten mail at the entrance of their condominium complex and had ridden his bicycle a short distance away when he saw a police car speeding toward him. Fearful, Bryce hopped off his bike and ran toward home. He was bitten just as he got to the door.

Now, officers can release their dogs only when a felony property crime has been verified. The officer must reasonably believe that the suspect was involved. The dogs cannot be freed on people younger than 16 unless they are involved in a violent crime, Jones said.

Gainesville attorney Robert Rush has filed a notice of intent to sue on behalf of the family. He said Thursday he hopes to meet with city to try to resolve the matter.

"Reprimand is a serious punishment," Rush said. "(Bryce) is only 10 years old and this is the most dramatic and traumatic thing that ever happened to him, but he has a great family that is giving him great support. He is doing reasonably well."

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