The man who fled a traffic stop and left behind a stolen pistol in his car before suffering a horrific injury when he was mauled by a police K-9 formally pleaded not guilty Tuesday to weapons charges that prosecutors are continuing to pursue.
Terrell Marquis Bradley, 31, of Gainesville lost his eye when the police dog lunged and bit him as he hid lying in the dark behind hedges during a 45-minute police search for him. The dog, named Ranger, did not let go until his handler inserted a metal bar in the dog’s mouth to pry its jaw open.
The case involving Bradley, who is Black and was convicted of a felony in 2010, energized activists and civil rights protesters who already have a tense relationship with the police department in Gainesville over racial issues.
Studies have concluded that even when they are unarmed, Black defendants – especially teenagers – across the U.S. are far more likely to be bitten by police dogs than white defendants, and some Gainesville police K-9 handlers are accused in a pending federal lawsuit filed by a former colleague of making racially charged comments about how often their dogs have bitten Black defendants in the city’s minority neighborhoods.
The horrific aftermath of Bradley’s arrest was captured in photographs that some police officers took surreptitiously and shared with colleagues, and in gruesome body camera videos that Gainesville police released earlier this month as part of an internal affairs investigation.
Their investigation concluded that the officers did not violate laws or department policies during Bradley’s arrest. Last week in a related investigation, the department suspended two officers without pay for five days each for sending insensitive messages to each other immediately after Bradley’s injury. Three others were given written reprimands for illicitly photographing Bradley’s wounds.
“Maybe if these stories get around criminals will stop running from me,” wrote Andrew Milman, one of the officers involved in Bradley’s traffic stop, to another officer, Matthew Shott, using an internal messaging system.
Shott replied that he hoped not because “these bedtime stories are too good,” and Milman responded, “I was about to say, that would take the fun out of this job.” Shott told internal affairs investigators the messages were intended as jokes and general banter.
Bradley did not appear in court Tuesday at his arraignment. His lawyer, Curtis Lee of Lakeland, submitted a written plea of not guilty in the case. Neither Bradley nor Lee returned phone messages left with them over the course of the day Tuesday.
Despite Bradley’s injury, prosecutors earlier this month formally charged Bradley with felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a weapon as a convicted felon and battery on a police officer. Police said he intentionally pushed one of the officers as he fled the traffic stop. He is also charged with a misdemeanor of resisting arrest without violence.
Bradley’s next court appearance is Oct. 25.