WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Local attorney Richard A. Ryles has ﬁled an inquiry with the United States Department of Justice over a January incident in which an African American man being detained by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputies was viciously bitten for an extended time by a police K-9 in Belle Glade.
Bystander video shows 30year old Gerson Delmas faced down on the ground, handcuffed and in feet shackles, yet being viciously mauled by the dog tearing at his right leg for nearly a minute, while its handler held the leash but did not pull the dog away.
Local activists have expressed outrage over the Jan. 26 incident in which, according to the police report, two deputies arrested and detained Delmas on an outstanding sexual battery warrant.
Deputies said the detained Delmas head-butted one of the ofﬁcers, kicked the dog, and otherwise resisted violently arrest, and therefore they set the dog on him in the patrol car near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Southwest Seventh Street, according to the arrest report.
The police report states that Delmas shouted “I did nothing wrong,” in front of a crowd of about 40 bystanders who had gathered.
The report said Delmas repeatedly refused the ofﬁcer’s command to get in the squad car and they subsequently put the dog on him.
The report also said Delmas had a four-inch pocket knife in his right pocket which he continued to reach for.
But the video shows Delmas handcuffed, shackled and in the vehicle when deputies released the dog on him.
The K-9 is seen still clamped on Delmas as he is pulled from the vehicle, pushed face down on the ground and not resisting The dog is seen continuing to attack Delmas for approximately a minute while he still was handcuffed and in foot shackles.
According to the report an ofﬁcer eventually lifted Delmas and put him in the PBSO vehicle where he was transported to Lakeside Medical Center reportedly for the dog bite.
Sheriff’s Ofﬁce spokeswomanTeri Barbieri said Delmas remains in custody, and there could be no comment while the internal investigation is ongoing. The two deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
Ryles said their actions were egregious and they should be held accountable.
“We’re hoping to get these ofﬁcers charged and ﬁred,” said Ryles, president of the Palm Beach County Black Caucus. “They had him in shackles and detained in a police vehicle,” added the former West Palm Beach commissioner, who did not meet the qualifying deadline for re-election in 2019, but has ﬁled to run for the Palm Beach County Commission in August.
Chuck Ridley, chairman of the Unify Palm Beach County justice coalition, said “The person arrested was in shackles and handcuffs and was already apprehended and did not pose a threat to the ofﬁcers. Additionally he was neither a flight risk.”
Jane Tierney, co-chair of Unify’s Criminal Justice Committee, also said it “was an example of excessive use of force by PBSO. The threat had been reduced. All they needed to do was de-escalate the situation, but instead they escalated it and brought in the police dog on him.
“It was clearly racial injustice,” added Tierney. “Violent dogs being let loose on Blacks, it’s an attempt to terrorize and not just control them. … There’s a violent message this conveys.”
Neither Delmas nor family members could be reached for comment. Several K-9 experts interviewed by other media said the deputies violated police policy by loosing the K-9 on a detained suspect.
CBS12 News reported that Valentin Rodriguez, an experienced civil litigation and criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach who has sued PBSO over K-9 cases before, said the dogs are not supposed to bite someone who is not a danger to the police ofﬁcers.
Hagen Van Hendrix, owner of a K-9 training facility in St. Augustine, with more than 20 years’ experience training police K-9 dogs, told CBS12 News’ Al Pefley:
“I believe while getting the gentleman out of the vehicle, the dog was perhaps necessary. Once the dog actually got the gentleman out of the car, the dog should have released. … I believe the dog was on the leg, way too long.”
Ryles said he is awaiting a response from Justice. “It’s time for us to stand,” he said. “These ofﬁcers can’t be judge, jury and executioner.”