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Internal affairs and independent investigations find no policy violations in Gainesville Police K9 maiming of Terrell Bradley

Gainesville Police Chief Lonnie Scott announced Thursday that internal affairs and an independent consulting firm found no violations of policy in the arrest of Terrell Bradley, the Gainesville resident who lost his eye to a K9 after running from a traffic stop.

Despite this, Scott said conduct revealed by the internal affairs investigation resulted in the paid suspension of two officers while another investigation is conducted. He declined to name them or specify the conduct until that investigation concludes within the next two weeks.

The department released a community briefing containing selected portions of body camera footage of the traffic stop, chase and arrest of Bradley. The full footage is now available to be requested from the public records department.

Together, the reports and the briefing footage offer a detailed account of what happened.

What the reports and footage reveal about Bradley’s arrest

Gainesville police body cameras currently record one minute of video without audio prior to being activated. Bradley was shown speaking with officer Andrew Milman in the car but the exchange cannot be heard.

The arrest report said Milman asked Bradley to step out of the vehicle after Milman observed a plastic bag of “green leafy substance” in the passenger seat and Bradley making “furtive movements” toward under the front seat, where officers later found a loaded gun with an extended magazine.

Content Warning: Gainesville Police Department's community briefing of Terrell Bradley's arrest contains sensitive material. Viewer discretion is advised.

In the footage, Bradley gestures his hands in the air frequently while speaking, and the movements Milman described can’t be seen.

Scott said that is due to the angle of the footage.

The audio kicks in.

Milman can be heard repeatedly saying “stop” to Bradley while facing him towards the car, and then Bradley takes off running.

After officers find the gun and confirm Bradley has a 12-year-old felony conviction for unarmed robbery, Sgt. Brett Kikendall calls for a K9.

The briefing justified the use of the K9 with a portion of the K9 manual that authorizes deployment “if the failure to apprehend the subject poses an imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death to the general public or a law enforcement officer.”

Bradley had run half a mile down the road and was hiding in the landscaping shrubs of a nearby apartment complex for nearly an hour. When asked why officers considered him an imminent threat, Scott said they didn’t know whether or not he was armed.

Ranger, a K9 on a 15-foot leash handled by officer Josh Meurer, attacked Bradley immediately upon finding him in the bushes.

No command was given to Ranger to bite. No warning was issued to Bradley.

Scott said while warnings may be issued if a suspect is thought to be inside a building, they’re not used in “wooded areas” where you have no idea where a suspect might be.

In the footage, Bradley screams while Meurer commands him to show his hands and come out.

K9s are taught to bite and hold, Scott said; officers have to see that a suspect is under control — hands cuffed or prone on the ground, not moving and with hands visible — before they pull the dog off.

Bradley was lying on the ground behind the hedges, unarmed, under Ranger.

Scott said he doesn’t believe Meurer knew Bradley’s eye was injured or that he was unarmed.

“He got me bro, I’m done!” Bradley cries in the footage. “I’m done! I’m done! I’m done!”

“Come out to me!” Meurer commands.

“Get your dog!” Bradley yells.

Bradley yells it seven more times.

Ranger mauls Bradley for 46 seconds before officers disengage it.

An officer yells at Bradley to put his hands, which are red with blood, behind his back.

“Your dog ripped my eye,” Bradley says. “Your dog ripped my eye out.” 

He repeats it a few dozen times.

After the first half dozen repetitions — about 30 seconds after disengaging Ranger — they call EMS. A minute later, they call “EMS hot” to indicate urgency.

“Well, shouldn’t run from the police,” officer Ripley says.

In between repetitions, Bradley screams. Sometimes he changes his chant: “I can’t see, I can’t see, I can’t see . . .”

Officers help him to stand and walk him to the parking lot. They repeatedly tell him the ambulance is coming.

Officer Theophin props Bradley’s bloody head up with his knees to keep him conscious. His right eye is hanging out of its socket.

Some detail is missing from the briefing footage but present in the internal affairs report.

“The dog ate my eye out,” Bradley told Theophin.

“Shouldn’t have been running, bro,” Theophin said. “Shouldn’t have been running.”

“I ain’t doing sh— wrong, bro,” Bradley said. “People getting killed by polices, what the f— you mean I shouldn’t be running?”

A neighbor walking back to her apartment told Bradley: “They wanted him to eat you up really, to be honest with you. That’s what they train them to do.”

Officer Henderson said “goodnight Auntie” toward her as she walked away.

Two officers asked Henderson if that was really his auntie and he said no. They chuckled.

“I’d get in trouble if I said that,” Officer Marshall said.

They continued to laugh.

A neighbor brought two water bottles.

In the footage, an officer pours the water into Bradley’s mouth.

EMS arrives.

Officers cuff Bradley to the stretcher.

What will be done

The outside consulting firm, V2 Global, found no violation of GPD's policy and that the department is even more restrictive with K9 use than industry standard.

V2 Global describes itself as a “risk mitigation and relationship management consulting firm.” Its website lists a law enforcement advisory team with three retired chiefs.

While there is a need for more diversity on the K9 unit, Scott said, there is no plan to change the policy.

Scott added that only 12 of the 129 K9 deployments in Gainesville last year resulted in bites, well below a 25% threshold that he said flags concern in the industry.

Research has shown that in departments across the country, K9s are disproportionately used against Black residents.

When asked the race of the recipients of those 12 bites, Scott said they didn’t have that data.

Scott clarified that other laughing heard in the footage they reviewed, while inappropriate, was attributed to officers talking about themselves — how one lost a shoe, how another misidentified an apartment complex — and did not have to do with Bradley.

All officers who made unnecessary comments, the report said, will receive verbal counseling.

Protestors have called the reason for Bradley’s traffic stop “DWB” — driving while Black.

Scott said GPD made a decision to increase police presence in the area of Bradley's arrest, including traffic enforcement, due to rising violent crime.

Between Jan. 1 and July 10, 2022, GPD received 373 calls for service at Sweetwater Square apartments, including eight calls for shots fired and two calls for individuals being shot.

On average, Gainesville police officers have seized more than one firearm every day this year.

The firearm from the car Bradley was driving adds one more to the total.

Bradley was released from jail to heal at home from his injuries: two broken fingers, 12 stitches near his temple, leaking spinal fluid and a now-empty right eye socket.

The State Attorney’s Office for the Eighth Judicial Circuit on Wednesday filed information in circuit court signaling its intent to prosecute Bradley on four counts.

Ranger will go through refresher training, Scott said. In a couple of weeks, they will return the dog to service.

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