A St. Paul woman who was bitten three times by a St. Paul police dog that chased her through her yard and into her home was at fault in the incident, the city attorney's office alleged in a response to a lawsuit.
Karen Shafer sued the city last year for the attack by police dog Rebel. The city responded last February, admitting that she was bitten and injured, but contending the injuries "if any, were caused by her own negligence, improper and/or illegal conduct, and/or by the negligence, improper and/or illegal conduct of another not within the control of the City."
Shafer served the suit on the city about a year ago, and officially filed it with the courts last Thursday. Shafer alleges that she was in her backyard on July 7, 2013, when she was attacked unprovoked by Rebel, who refused to obey commands from his human partner, officer Matthew Yunker.
According to Shafer, her lawsuit and her attorney, Edward Risch: Shafer and some friends were barbecuing at her Frogtown home when an alleged car thief crashed a vehicle nearby. Police were in pursuit. The suspect fled on foot.
Shafer said she walked to her back fence to observe the commotion when Rebel, who is not named in the suit, jumped up and bit her right hand. Shafer fled, but the dog apparently pushed through the gate and bit her left leg.
Shafer was able to break from the dog and ran into her home, where Rebel caught up and latched onto her left arm. Shafer said in a recent interview that Yunker, who is not named in the suit, had caught up by then, but Rebel ignored his commands to release. Yunker had to stick his thumbs in Rebel's mouth to pull the dog off, Shafer said.
The alleged car thief hadn't run by Shafer's home or through her yard, she said.
"There was no reason for that dog to be in my yard," Shafer said.
Shafer said she had 17 stitches in her three wounds, missed two months of work, incurred about $7,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses and has permanent scarring. She is suing the city for damages in excess of $50,000.
Risch said the city had extended a settlement offer that was not accepted.
"We feel it's not sufficient for the type of injury she sustained," Risch said.
The case is scheduled for mediation this week. Yunker and Rebel are currently assigned to the department's K-9 unit.