A dog off its leash in a park escalated into a confrontation with police and resulted in an expensive settlement of a federal lawsuit.
An 8-pound Shih-tzu named Baby went off-leash in Bloomington, and the chain of events that followed cost the city’s insurance company $150,000.
Documents were signed Tuesday to settle Isaac Ward’s federal lawsuit accusing police of beating up Ward after a confrontation with an animal control officer.
“The stuff that was happening was really as surreal as can be,” Ward testified in an earlier court deposition.
The incident dates to 2009 when Ward, 66, took Baby, his ex-wife’s dog, for a walk in Dred Scott Park.
Ward, a retired car salesman, says Baby is afraid of big dogs, so he keeps her out of dog parks. He said he’s walked her off-leash in the park before with police looking on.
But when Jay Young, an animal control officer, spotted him on Nov. 4, 2009, he yelled at him to put her on a leash. He used a disrespectful tone, Ward said. Young issued a warning letter.
When Young caught Baby off-leash again a month later, Ward told him to mail him the ticket and drove off. Young followed Ward to his ex-wife’s condo, where more words were exchanged.
Ward says he warned Young he would “snatch him out of the car.” Young said Ward threatened “to go into the house … get a gun” and kill him and his “friends in blue.”
Six Bloomington cops turned up 20 minutes later to arrest Ward on an Anoka County warrant for having the wrong license tabs on a vehicle. They met Ward in the condo lobby.
One officer told Ward he was under arrest and to put his hands behind his back. Ward claims he complied but as he turned around, an officer punched him in the eye. The officer said he did so because Ward balled up his fist and assumed a fighting position, which Ward denies. Ward was also hit on the back of the neck, kicked and shot with a Taser. He said he now has numbness in his left arm, weakness to his left wrist and back pain.
He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for obstructing legal process and got a 28-day suspended sentence and 24 hours of community service.
In 2011, lawyers William Pentelovitch and Julian Zebot sued the city and the officers on Ward’s behalf. Ward alleges the animal control officer targeted him because he was black.
“From everything I know about the animal control officer, it had nothing to do with race and was all about Mr. Ward not keeping his dog on the leash,” said attorney Jason Hively, who represented Bloomington and the officers.
“Our concern was that if we went to trial, and even if the jury came back and gave Mr. Ward a dollar, his attorneys were anticipating they would have close to $300,000 in attorneys’ fees,” Hively said.
“I’m happy it’s over,” Ward said Tuesday of the settlement.
“I never once resisted.”
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224