- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

A Takoma Park, Md., police officer testified in U.S. District Court yesterday that Prince George's County police officers sicced a police dog on a burglary suspect after he surrendered.

Prince George's County canine Officer Stephanie Mohr and Sgt. Anthony Delozier are on trial on charges of conspiracy and excessive force, and former Takoma Park Detective Brian Rich, now an FBI agent, is being tried on charges of falsifying police reports on the incident.

Takoma Park Cpl. Keith Largent testified that Jorge Herrera-Cruz and Ricardo Mendez, sometimes known as Ricardo Gonzalez, had come down off an office building roof and were standing with their hands raised next to a wall at the base of the building about 4:15 a.m. on Sept. 21, 1995.

"They weren't doing anything wrong. They were cooperating," Cpl. Largent said, after explaining that the two were apprehended in a police action to stop a series of nighttime burglaries in Takoma Park.

Sgt. Delozier, then a corporal, asked, "It's a new dog. Can the dog take a bite?" Cpl. Largent testified.

Sgt. Dennis Bonn, who was in charge, said, "Yeah. Go ahead," Cpl. Largent testified.

"A second later, I heard a command. I don't know what the command was," Cpl. Largent said. "Then I saw a dog coming in … He ran in and bit him on the leg and shook him back and forth."

The German shepherd, named Valk, had been held by its trainer, Officer Mohr, according to Cpl. Largent. He later testified that Officer Mohr dashed in and pulled the dog loose from Mr. Mendez.

Mr. Mendez was treated at Washington Adventist Hospital. An illegal immigrant, he was deported a couple of weeks later. Herrera-Cruz subsequently pleaded guilty and returned to El Salvador. He has been summoned to testify.

Under cross-examination, Cpl. Largent admitted his testimony differed from some testimony that he gave to the grand jury in August, and that he remembered some forgotten facts while being questioned by prosecutors and the FBI preparing for the trial.

For instance, Cpl. Largent said he told the grand jury that he couldn't remember who pulled the dog off, but "after the grand jury, I remember [Officer Mohr] taking the dog off."

Cpl. Largent agreed that attacks by police dogs are authorized in apprehending felony suspects, during escape attempts and at the slightest hint of danger to police.

"At some point, I took my weapon out and pointed it at the subjects at the wall," Cpl. Largent testified, but he said he could not remember if the suspects were facing him or the wall.

It was not until he was en route to the hospital that he learned that evidence on the rooftop indicated the two men were camped out there and there was no evidence of an attempt to burglarize, Cpl. Largent said.

Cpl. Largent, who has an immunity deal with prosecutors, also testified he had secretly recorded a conversation with Bonn.

A Takoma Park City Council member had secretly recorded a discussion he and Cpl. Largent had had about a federal investigation into accusations of discrimination in the city's police department, which, Cpl. Largent said, led to his own secret recording.

Council member Terry Seamens summoned Cpl. Largent April 8 to discuss the investigation, Cpl. Largent testified.

He later learned Mr. Seamens had recorded the conversation. Then, Cpl. Largent testified, a federal investigator asked him about it and persuaded him to wear a recorder to talk with Bonn.

Bonn has since retired and pleaded guilty in November to being an accessory after the fact. He and Mr. Seamens are scheduled to testify in the trial.

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