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A traffic stop ended in a Gainesville Police K9 ripping out his eye. Terrell Bradley’s story is more than the police report

Terrell Bradley is now on pretrial electronic monitoring at home, where his mother is hoping he’ll heal better from his injuries from a Gainesville Police K9: a lost eye, two broken fingers, twelve stitches near his temple and spinal leakage. (Katie Hyson/WUFT News)
Terrell Bradley is now on pretrial electronic monitoring at home, where his mother is hoping he’ll heal better from his injuries from a Gainesville Police K9: a lost eye, two broken fingers, twelve stitches near his temple and spinal leakage. (Katie Hyson/WUFT News)

Though it was his day off, Terrell Bradley was wearing his electrician work clothes: Red Wing boots and cargo pants. Earlier, he installed a ceiling fan for an older woman.

He took his 12-year-old daughter Teniyah, his oldest, to a birthday party at Splitz bowling alley, and stuck around to supervise when he noticed more boys than girls. He dropped her off late that night.

As he pulled out of the Sweetwater Square apartment complex shortly after, a Gainesville police report says, he ran a stop sign. The report doesn’t mention that there is no stop sign there.

Gainesville police officer Andrew Milman initiated a traffic stop and followed Bradley to Eden Park apartments, half a mile down the road, where he pulled him over.

The report says Milman saw “a plastic bag of green leafy substance in plain view,” and describes Bradley making “furtive movements . . . towards under the front seat of the vehicle.”

Milman asked Bradley to step out “for officer safety,” which he did. The report describes a struggle to pat Bradley down, during which Bradley’s elbow swung and hit Milman in his side.

Bradley ran.

The report says he didn’t respond to orders to stop as several officers and Milman chased him.

“I got afraid,” Bradley told WUFT. “I’d been hearing about a lot of incidents where people just been getting killed by mishaps.”

They lost sight of Bradley. He hid in the bushes of the apartment complex for roughly an hour.

Officer Josh Meurer brought a leashed K9 to track him.

“After a short struggle, the [defendant] was placed in to custody,” the report says. It notes he was unable to make any statements after his rights were read, but it doesn't say why.

A search of Bradley’s vehicle found a fully loaded Glock pistol under the driver’s seat, which had been reported as stolen in a conveyance burglary the year before. There was an extended magazine, marijuana and more ammo in the back seat.

His ID was left behind. A check revealed a 12-year-old felony conviction for unarmed robbery on Bradley’s record.

With a court case looming, it’s delicate for Bradley to talk about that night. But what he does recount in vivid detail is the attack. 

He said he never heard a warning. He was already on the ground.

And then a German Shepherd’s teeth latched onto his face.

He speaks of his eye like a reluctant expert. The dog severed three of the four major muscles that connected Bradley’s eye to his brain.

Bradley said the officers told him: That’s what you get. You shouldn’t run from the police.

The police released him before he was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center, but Shands was unable to assist him.

In the waiting room at Shands, Bradley’s mother Karen Hutchinson said she witnessed officers showing photos of her son’s injuries, laughing and boasting of the takedown.

She said they didn’t realize who she was.

More times than she sees her son’s maimed eye in her mind, she said, she sees the faces of those officers, which she’ll never forget.

Bradley had to be airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, where staff removed his eye, sewed 12 stitches near his temple and placed a cast on two broken fingers. The fluid that surrounded his spine and brain was leaking.

Afterward, Gainesville police put out another arrest warrant for him. He was booked into Hillsborough County Jail and later transferred back to Alachua County Jail.

His father said Bradley’s medical and transport bills became his son’s responsibility, rather than the police department’s, since Bradley wasn’t in custody during treatment.

Bradley now faces four felony charges and a misdemeanor charge for what they found in his car, and another felony charge for “resisting an officer with violence.”

If a jury finds him guilty, the judge will decide what his punishment should be.

The loss of his eye doesn’t count.

Press releases and protests

Danielle Chanzes, a community organizer who’s been working closely with Bradley’s family, said she only posted the gruesome pictures to social media on July 15 as a last resort. Hutchinson had been calling GPD every day to demand answers, Chanzes said, but hadn’t heard a word. 

The next day, the Gainesville Police Department put out a press release.

“We recognize some of our neighbors may feel disturbed by the images circulating on social media,” the Facebook post said. “Rest assured, GPD will be transparent during the review process and we will provide our neighbors with an accurate accounting of this incident.”

While the police began investigating themselves, protestors took to the streets with signs that said, “GPD: Who are you protecting?”

Organizers and Bradley’s loved ones addressed the crowd. Many were from neighborhoods like Sweetwater – ones some label high-crime and others call under-resourced.

We all know what this was, they said. Traffic stops are the modern day stop and frisk. It’s DWB: Driving While Black. What they found after doesn’t justify what happened; he wasn’t an active threat. The police are not judge, jury and executioner.

They pointed to Philando Castile, who followed every order by police at a traffic stop and was still fatally shot in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter, just 40 seconds after being pulled over.

Wearing T-shirts with photos of Bradley’s bloodied eye hanging out of its socket, they insisted on his worth through a megaphone:

“Terrell Bradley is a child of God, and a child of this community.”

“Terrell Bradley is showered with love and respect.”

They marched down Northwest Sixth Street and flooded the intersection of Northwest Eighth Avenue.

The old refrain echoed off the walls of the police station: “No justice, no peace!”

Later, they filled the courtroom for Bradley’s first appearance hearing in “Justice for Terrell” T-shirts and eyepatches.

A lawyer spelled out the injuries, none of which were mentioned in the police report.

“I’ve been informed that Mr. Bradley does have a medical marijuana card,” she said. “If the court would like to take that into consideration.”

Bradley’s father and mother asked the judge to consider that he wasn’t receiving the medical care he needed in jail.

On the flat jail beds, he couldn’t sleep in the position the doctors prescribed. His mother worried about infection. She wanted him home, where he could sleep, eat nutritious food and, hopefully, heal.

The judge released Bradley on electronic monitoring with GPS.

In the hallway outside, reporters swarmed around Bradley’s father, Reverend Victor Bradley.

One moment, he said. One moment. Please.

He brought his hand to his face and finally, momentarily, allowed it to contort with emotion.

Then he circled up friends and family to pray.

“Thank you, Father God.”

‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord’

As a father, Rev. Bradley admitted, he has to fight back thoughts of revenge.

But then, he said, he screws his head back on. Reminds himself that “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”

He never wanted his “baby boy” to become a statistic.

Long ago, he gave Bradley The Talk: Respect the police. Don’t give them a reason. Take down badge numbers.

When Bradley was wanted for charges of unarmed robbery 12 years ago – the only felony of his three convictions, all more than seven years old – Rev. Bradley made him turn himself in to the police, to protect him. He knew how Gainesville police officers performed felony takedowns if they found you in the streets.

He knew, because in the mid-1990s, he was one.

While working as a correctional officer in the Alachua County Jail, he said, he was recruited to a newly created unit of the Gainesville Police Department – Neighborhood Services – tasked with building relationships with the community.

He said during his orientation, they loaded new officers into a van to show them high-crime areas. They drove to predominantly Black neighborhoods on the east side, including his own.

He asked why they weren’t driving to the “student ghetto,” where he knew dope was sold. He said they told him these neighborhoods were where the crime was. 

This pattern of policing some areas differently and more than others, he said, repeated throughout his time at the department.

He said he would be told to leave alone someone biking near UF campus without a light, but stop a man on the east side for walking with a backpack.

He described one incident where he was able to apprehend a man without injury, but was reprimanded for not letting the dog do the takedown, because it “deserved a bite.”

Despite these experiences, and despite what happened to his son, he still believes God ordained officers to protect people.

He quotes Romans 13: “Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”

You can’t blanket the police for this one man, he told Bradley in the hospital.

His goal for his son is that he finds a way to live without hate.

‘Very extreme force for very minor resistance’

A long history of encounters between police dogs and Black citizens preceded the night of July 10, 2022.

Rev. Bradley said he’s been afraid of dogs since he was a child, when he saw a K9 attack a young man during local race riots.

Dogs were used to hunt down Black people who fled their masters during slavery and to face down Black people who protested during Civil Rights.

An 1849 illustration in “Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb, an American slave, written by himself” shows how dogs were used to hunt down Black people who escaped their master. (New York Public Library)

From 2010 to 2017, Christy Lopez – now a professor at Georgetown Law – served as a deputy chief for the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She led investigations into law enforcement agencies in Ferguson, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere. 

This included looking at departments’ use of K9s.

Lopez called what happened to Bradley “an absolutely inappropriate use of force,” but also said she’s seen this kind of scenario – where someone was hiding when a K9 attacked – many times, including to a child hiding in a closet.

“One of the things that we’ve really normalized,” Lopez said, “is the use of this very extreme use of force for very minor resistance. This person [Bradley] was hiding in the bushes.”

Lopez said in every department she’s examined, K9s were disproportionately used against Black people.

In Ferguson, in every – not most, she emphasized, every – case of K9 use of force where the race of the victim was recorded, that person was Black.

The Gainesville Police Department publishes an annual use of force report, which tallies K9 uses of force – 13 in 2021 – but record keeping and policy vary between law enforcement departments, making it difficult to know the national scope of K9 use and its consequences.

The department’s public information officer position is newly vacant. A lieutenant declined to respond to details shared in this story or questions about the reasons for K9 use, calls for reform, or Bradley’s arrest, saying they will release more information once all reviews have been completed.

Lopez said even “really awful attacks like this are often found to be reasonable and within policy.”

That’s why, after everything she’s seen in police departments across the country, Lopez advocates for a change in policy.

The Gainesville Police Department’s K9 patrol teams go through an initial 480-hour course, train 10 hours a week, and are recertified annually. Its website lists many uses for these teams: assisting in criminal apprehensions, locating missing persons, detecting narcotics, acting as back-up and assisting with crowd control.

While she understands some of these uses, Lopez said she doesn’t believe K9s should be used for apprehension.

She said she was often told K9s are needed to go into dark buildings, but given all the technology we now have – infrared cameras, drones, robots – any public safety benefit of K9 apprehension doesn’t outweigh the harm.

Taxpayers currently subsidize the K9 unit. WUFT has not yet received response from the police department to a July 25 request for the unit’s budget.

Lopez said there is a deeply baked culture around K9s in police departments, and departments are likely afraid to take something away from officers that has long been seen as a perk of the job.

The Gainesville Police Department website says handlers equate the bond with their K9 to “that of a best friend, a brother or even that of their child.”

It describes the K9s like mascots – “tremendous ambassadors to our community.”

This culture, combined with the lack of legal consequences for the officers involved, Lopez said, perpetuates unnecessary K9 use that results in maulings like Bradley’s.

“And so the message becomes, ‘I guess this is fine. This is all normal,’” Lopez said. “And it continues.”

The only time she’s seen changes in K9 policy, she said, is under “an incredibly forward looking chief, or an incredibly active and persistent community.”

Gainesville organizers are aiming to create the second.

Chanzes and protestors made four demands of the Gainesville Police Department:

  1. Stop pursuing people who are not posing an imminent threat or danger to the community.
  2. At minimum discipline, and at best, fire officer Andrew Milman.
  3. Fire officer Josh Meurer and retire the K9 who maimed Bradley.
  4. Release unedited body and dash camera footage of the incident.

Whether what happened to Bradley is considered a breach of policy remains to be determined. 
On July 22, after a slew of media coverage that reached the national level, the department announced they were extending the 7-10 window for their internal review to 90 days. They also said they temporarily pulled the involved K9 out of service.

“Additionally,” the release said, “we will review the current canine deployment policy and solicit input from industry experts and present the policy to our neighbors.”

The Gainesville Sun reported that an outside organization will investigate. 

At a standing room only meeting of the Gainesville Police Advisory Council Wednesday night, after an hour of heated public comment, Police Chief Lonnie Scott said what happened to Bradley shouldn’t happen to anybody.

Scott was drowned out by cries to release the body camera footage.

Board member Reverend Milford Griner started to say the community needed to let the police finish their investigation, but attendees – including Bradley – marched out.

Chanzes is calling for policy change regardless of the investigation’s findings.

“If what happened to Terrell is within policy, that’s a policy failure,” she said. “A policy that allows a K9 officer to maul a man for minutes while he’s begging for help, screaming?”

‘I got lots of problems. I can’t let them break me.’

Even if Terrell Bradley beats the charges in court, heals from his injuries and finds a way to pay the court fees and surgery, prescription and airlift bills – despite being uninsured and missing work – he knows there’s a longer battle ahead.

It’s hard to sleep. Sounds make him jump in the middle of the night. He wakes up shaking.

Doctors told him to sleep propped at a 45 degree angle while his eye heals. But he said that’s the position he was in when the dog attacked.

When he lays down, he feels like something is about to run up and grab him.

It’s not the first time he’s had to overcome trauma. He still bears the scars of a 2015 crash with a cement truck that killed his cousin and a best friend.

He and his friends wrote a song in the years that followed.

I got lots of problems, trials and tribulations. I got lots of problems. I can’t let them break me.

In some ways, he said, that experience prepared him to face what’s ahead.

He’s seen headlines of police and injured Black men around the country. He never thought he’d be one.

Sometimes, friends or family will try to show him articles, but he doesn’t want to read them. He wants to keep his head clear for the long game.

He’s focused on his three kids. He feels for his 5-year-old son, Terrell, and what he’ll have to face as he becomes a Black man in America.

Bradley wants justice, but said if it came down to a life or death situation, he’d still help an officer out.

“I can’t build up no coldness in my heart towards the police,” he said. “Even though they make me not trust them. I’ll admit that.”

It’s a lesson from his father: Don’t let anyone else dictate the kind of person you’re going to be.

Terrell Bradley talks in sayings like this – “You got to make lemonade out of lemons,” “Everything happens for a reason,” – even though, he acknowledges, the how and why feel far off.

His friends come by and play NBA 2K on the Playstation. They buy him red ice when the ice cream truck passes.

He awaits a court date at home, a GPS monitor clamped around his ankle.

But sometimes, he steps into the grass just outside.

With his left eye, he watches the birds.

Katie Hyson was a Report for America Corps Member at WUFT News from 2021 to 2023. She now works for KPBS in San Diego.