The letter arrives with the ominous sounding return address of "Federal Prison Camp, Box A Alderson, WV" as you open it up a photo of an attractive mother with an adorable son falls out. The inscription on the back speaks of how amazed she is with how much he's grown between the time he visits her in prison. Stephanie Mohr was a Police officer and now she's in jail.
"I hope with all my heart that you'll read this letter" it begins. "Because right now, hope is the only thing keeping me alive." The violins continue playing for a few paragraphs while she laments not being able to watch her son grow. Then she launches into the reason for her incarceration.
She then proceeds:You may have heard about my case on TV. On the night of September 21, 1995, I was on patrol with my police dog, Valk. The area I patrolled, Takoma Park, had been suffering a rash of burglaries. My partner, Sgt. Anthony Delozier, and I got a call for backup from an officer who had spotted two men on the roof of a nearby store. We knew we had likely found the perpetrators.
When we arrived, the situation was tense. The suspects, Ricardo Mendez and Herrera Cruz, had been ordered down from the roof and told to face a wall. They were shouting back and forth to each other in a stream of Spanish.
And then it happened.
Mendez made a move as if to flee the scene. In accordance with my training, I released my dog, Valk, who was trained to perform the standard “bite and hold” move. He did so, biting Mendez on the leg and holding him until I and the other officers could handcuff him.
And after many more impassioned pleas and comments about "Bureaucrats in the Civil Rights Division," the NAACP and in some versions of the story the ACLU, comes a request for donations to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.So imagine my shock – five years later – when the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would indict me for “violating” Ricardo Mendez’s civil rights by allowing my police dog to bite his leg!
Mendez, a criminal and an illegal alien, had been fleeing the scene of a crime, and it had been my duty to release Valk and apprehend him. But the bureaucrats in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice chose to ignore the facts; they were looking for cases of “police brutality”, and I was exactly what they wanted: a white officer whose police dog had bitten a minority.
My fellow officers and I testified in court that I had done my job by the book. And it was true: the P.G. County police training clearly states that if a felony suspect makes a move, we are authorized to release our police dogs.
It's a moving tale but it doesn't quite match up with her court records. She was found guilty and imprisoned and a copy of her appeal which affirmed her conviction can be found here. It describes the events leading to her arrest as follows:
Not one but two courts have heard Mrs. Mohr's version of the story and the story told by other officers on the scene and neither court found Mrs. Mohr credible. The letter soliciting donations also doesn't mention the four times then Officer Mohr faced civil lawsuits for how she used her police dog, the counties attorney agreed to pay damages in three of those cases.On September 21, 1995, Officer Wendell Brantley, of the Takoma
Park, Maryland Police Department, was conducting surveillance in
the Holton Lane area of Prince George’s County because of a number
of commercial burglaries in that area. At approximately 2 a.m., Officer
Brantley spotted two men on the roof of the Sligo Press building.
He called for assistance and several Takoma Park officers, including Sergeant Dennis Bonn, responded. Bonn then asked for assistance
from Prince George’s County and specifically requested a K-9 dog.
Prince George’s K-9 officers Mohr and Anthony Delozier arrived
with Mohr’s police dog. Bonn also called for a Maryland State Police
helicopter, which illuminated the entire roof with a powerful light called
a "night sun."
Bonn, with corroboration from three other police eyewitnesses, testified
to the government’s version of how and why Mohr released her
police dog on Ricardo Mendez, one of the suspects on the roof. After
the helicopter arrived, the officers ordered the suspects to come to the
back of the roof. Mendez and the other suspect, Jorge Herrera-Cruz,
did so and held their hands in the air, as directed by the officers.
Then, again as directed by the officers, the suspects climbed down
from the roof, keeping their hands in the air, and eventually facing the
officers, who surrounded them in a semicircle, some with their guns
drawn. Bonn testified that the suspects followed all police commands.
As the suspects stood with their hands up in the air, Delozier
approached Bonn and asked: "Sarge, can the dog get a bite?" Bonn
"responded with one word, which was yes." Bonn testified that "[a]t
that time, [the suspects] still had their hands in the air and they
weren’t doing anything." Bonn then witnessed Delozier and Mohr
have "a very, very brief exchange," followed by Mohr releasing the
dog. The dog attacked Mendez, who "still had his hands in the air
when . . . the dog bit him in the leg. [He] went down screaming and
continued to scream." Bonn testified that, prior to Mohr’s release of
the dog, Mendez did not make "any sudden movement," did not "fail
to comply with police command[s]," did not "lower his hands," and
did not "attempt to flee in any way." Bonn did not hear any K-9 warning
prior to Mohr’s release of the dog or at any point during the evening.2
As a result of the incident, Bonn pled guilty as an accessory-after-thefact
to a civil rights violation and testified for the government pursuant
to a plea agreement.
So why would a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity use a story they have no excuse for not knowing is significantly and demonstrably misleading to solicit donations? Perhaps because the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is a pretty lousy charity. It's been reported that in the year 2000 7.5 cents out of every dollar they collected was spent furthering the cause it was donated for. They have improved greatly in the last decade, almost doubling that figure. CharityNavigator.org reports that the most current figure is that 14.3 cents out of every dollar they take in gets used to help police officers. I wonder how much Stephanie Mohr receives of that amount.