UPDATED: This story has been updated based on a police press briefing, see below.
A man walking out of a convenience store on Lincoln Avenue was attacked and severely bitten by a New Rochelle Police K-9 unit in a case of mistaken identity, according to witnesses at the scene. The man was bitten several times on the leg by the German Shepard after exiting the #1 American Deli at 41 Lincoln Avenue on Sunday night, shortly before 9 p.m.
Moments later, after the actual suspect was identified further down the street, near St. Catherine A.M.E. Zion Church at 19 Lincoln Avenue, the K-9 officer dragged his partner down the street, approached the prone suspect and bit the suspect on the face, according to several witnesses who watched the drama unfold.
Both injured men were taken to Sound Shore Medical Center and are currently being treated in the Emergency Room.
Marcus Banks, a New Rochelle resident, saw the whole thing.
"He come out of the store, minding his own business," said Banks. "The police officer let the dog go on the wrong person."
Banks says that other officers identified their actual suspect near St. Catherine moments later. The police moved as a group down Lincoln Avenue towards North Avenue where they apprehended the suspect after the man surrendered to police.
Banks knows the other officers who work with the K-9 units but did not recognize the officer tonight.
"The officer did not appear to have control of the dog," said Banks.
"The man was bit up like there's no tomorrow," said Banks, indicating the area below his knee. "He bit him on his leg…his thigh.
Police took a complaint from the man exiting the convenience store.
Banks said the police suspect was lying prone on the sidewalk with his hands behind him when the K-9 officer lunged towards him at bit his face.
A sergeant at the police station said it was too early to comment on the incident.
UPDATE: New Rochelle Police have now confirmed that the incident began after an 18-year old woman reported that her boyfriend had punched her in the face. By the time police arrived the man had fled the scene and officers engaged in pursuit. The K-9 Unit joined the pursuit.
Kareen Lanza, 21, of Jamaica, Queens, was arrested on charges of Assault in the 3rd degree, a misdemeanor, and Resisting Arrest, a misdemeanor following a domestic violence incident at a residence on Mayflower Avenue. Lanza's girlfriend called police after she says he punched her several times in the face causing physical injury. Police say Lanza ran from Mayflower onto Brook Street and then made a left onto Lincoln Avenue.
Officer Marc Weinerman of the K-9 Unit joined the pursuit along with "Tank", the K-9 officer.
"He let the dog out of the vehicle and gave the "pursue' command," said New Rochelle Police Detective Captain Joseph Schaller.
Schaller says the dog was let off the leash and began pursuit but collided with an uninvolved pedestrian before continuing on down Lincoln in pursuit of Lanza.
Witnesses say that Weinerman let Tank off his leash but put him back on the leash to restrain the dog from biting the victim further. Tank then took off down the street in pursuit of Lanza, dragging Weinerman more than half a block. Upon reaching Lanza, who by then had surrendered and way laying face down on the sidewalk, Tank bit Lanza in the face.
Schaller confirmed that Lanza was bitten in the left cheek and the left leg.
A large crowd gathered around the victim, in front of the deli on Lincoln. The situation became tense as the crowd grew, police officers ordered the crowd to disperse and radioed headquarters for additional units to help control the crowd.
Schaller said there would be an investigation by the Patrol Commander and an Internal Affairs Investigation if the victim filed a complaint. On the scanner last night, police stated that the victim had requested to file a complaint.
Asked if there would be any retraining for Tank as of the result of the incident, Schaller said Tank was just doing his job and unfortunately an innocent person crossed paths with the dog.
Schaller said that protocol is to not release the dog unless there is no one in the street but was unable to say based on the incident reports just where the dog was release by Officer Weinerman. Brook Street between Mayflower Avenue and Lincoln Avenue is often crowded with pedestrians on warm summer evenings like last night, as was the case last night. There are two popular convenience stores at the corners of Horton Avenue and Brook Street and Lincoln Avenue and Brook Street which often serve as a gathering spot for neighborhood residents.
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