VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two days after a police K-9 bit an 11-year-old-boy, Police Chief Jim Cervera held a press conference, addressing the incident.
Cervera said the city of Virginia Beach will pay the boy’s medical bills, but denies any wrong-doing. He said officers responded to the America’s Best Value Inn on Northhampton Boulevard Monday afternoon looking for a bank robbery suspect.
“The individual we were looking for, we had every reason to believe was armed, every reason to believe would use violence,” he said.
Cervera said the response included multiple officers and a K-9 unit in case the suspect, 26-year-old Joshua Matthew Allen, of Norfolk, tried to run or use a weapon. He was already out on bond for nine counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
“Had we called all of the rooms, one of them might have been the suspect, and we might have gone from a bank robbery to a hostage barricade, to who knows what with a man who says, ‘I have a gun and a bomb,'” Cervera explained.
He said the K-9 and its handler were slowly patrolling an exterior hallway prior to the biting incident.
“The K-9 officer had the dog on his left side. This is important to realize he was on the left side of that sidewalk and he had the dog on his left. The reason: all your rooms are on the right,” Cervera said. “The K-9 officer was placing his body between what could be citizens, what could be innocent people coming out of the room and his dog. In other words, he was taking the proper precautions.”
Admittedly, those precautions did not help when Cervera says an 11-year-old boy staying at the hotel ran down a perpendicular hallway and turned left into the dog’s path.
“When that young man came running around that corner, he basically ran right into that dog, and the dog reacted,” Cervera said. “There was no command given by the officer. There never would have been a command given by that officer.”
Cervera called the incident an accident, and said he and the dog handler are sorry for what happened. He said the dog handler has three years experience in that role, and before that spent four years with SWAT.
“I feel very comfortable that this K-9 officer had total control of that dog. It was an accident, and sometimes accidents happen. Even with highly-trained expert people, accidents will happen. This is one of those times,” he said.
The victim’s family provided WAVY.com with photos of the boy’s injuries. Cervera said the photos corroborate the officer’s claim that the dog was quickly separated from the boy.
“The officer said as soon as he latched onto the young boy, he took the dog off. From the photos, the bite pattern showed that there are there puncture wounds. There’s no tearing. It’s just three puncture wounds,” Cervera said.
WAVY.com asked Chief Cervera why he waited until Wednesday afternoon to address a dog bite that happened Monday.
Chief Cervera replied, “Look at the time that it happened. They didn’t get everything put together until Monday evening. We were all briefed on Tuesday morning. What I wanted to do was contact the family first. Mom and dad had both left the area. They were down to North Carolina.”
Cervera has spoken with the boy’s parents, who are now in North Carolina. He said they were also informed today that the city of Virginia Beach will pay for the boy’s hospital visit and subsequent stitches, as well as any other medical bills related to the injury.
Cervera said the K-9 and the K-9 handler are going through a period of “decompression,” but that they are not on any type of leave. He expects them to return to full duty status quickly.