An Alabama mall is being sued for $25,000 after a security guard’s K-9 unit bit a Black teenager several times in an incident the plaintiffs describe as a racially motivated attack.
On Monday, attorneys for four young African-American men announced a lawsuit against The Shoppes at Bel Air mall in Mobile alleging racial harassment, violence and a security dog attack during a recent shopping trip, AL.com reported.
Attorneys for the youths said the foursome of three teens and a 20-year-old were out clothes shopping when they found themselves being handcuffed and harassed by a mall security worker. When one of the boys accused the cop of racial profiling, the officer allegedly ordered his dog to attack.
“Dogs were used to control African-Americans during civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, [and] it appears with this incident that we haven’t made much progress,” said Atlanta-based attorney L. Chris Stewart, who’s representing one of the teens.
“We have numerous questions for Brookfield Properties, The Shoppes at Bel Air and Allied Universal Security regarding why their security guards were so aggressive,” Stewart added, “and also why a K-9 dog, trained to attack on command, is patrolling a shopping mall.”
Attorneys said the incident unfolded June 22 as 16-year-olds Zion Lett and Cameron Robinson, 15-year-old Rodricus Johnson and 20-year-old Nathaniel Henderson were “horsing around” in the parking lot before entering the mall. Moments later, the mall cop, identified only as “Officer Kestler,” and his K-9 came “flying around the corner” and soon exited his cruiser with a hand on his gun.
That’s when the officer allegedly shoved the teens and ordered them to “get the f—k against the wall” before handcuffing them, according to attorneys. Stewart said only part of the arrest was caught on camera and shows one of the young men being pinned to the ground.
During the incident, Robinson accused Kestler of racially profiling the group after which the mall cop slammed him to the ground and sicced his Dutch Shepherd on him. Justin Miller, a second attorney representing the group, said the teen suffered several bites, as well as hair loss and a contusion.
“He forced me to the ground aggressively and then let the dog out at me,” Robinson told Mobile station WKRG 5, recalling the incident. “I blacked out when he slammed me to the ground.”
But the harassment didn’t stop there.
“He (Kestler) told me I could have got worse than what the dog did, like saying he could’ve shot me,” Robinson added.
The incident caused the teen to be hospitalized for two and a half days.
Now Robinson, his friends and their lawyers are demanding that Kestler be fired.
“He misused this dog; he doesn’t deserve to be working this K-9,” Stewart said, adding that he doesn’t blame the pooch, Kosmo, for the attack.
“They’re trained to stop when you say stop, they’re trained to attack when you say attack,” the attorney said. “This officer didn’t do that. He didn’t stop the dog; he commanded it to attack.”
Mobile Police offered a different account of the incident. In a statement, the department said officers responded to reports of a fight “involving several juveniles and a 20-year-old male” at the mall.
“The mall’s K-9 unit (dog) exited the vehicle and grabbed the juvenile biting him on his arm,” according to an incident report obtained by WKRG. The juvenile was then taken into custody. Once the juvenile was in handcuff he attempted to reach into his pants pocket. Officers check the juvenile’s pocket and found him in possession of marijuana. The juvenile was transported to the hospital to be treated for the bite. The 16-year-old was later transported to Strickland Youth Center and charged with (disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana 2nd and resisting arrest). Nathaniel Henderson, 20 was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.”
It’s unclear whether the four young men have been charged in the incident.
Robinson’s mother, Calandra Smith, said she’s just grateful she isn’t grieving the loss of her son.
“Just to see him sitting on the curb, bleeding, looking up at me crying, saying, ‘Mama, they put the dog on me. I didn’t do anything.’ It just broke my heart,” she said of the incident.
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