HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Hendersonville in relation to an off-duty K-9 attack that injured two people in August of 2020.
*NOTE: This article contains graphic photos of injuries*
The lawsuit alleges that Sergeant Robert Cantwell of the Hendersonville Police Department allowed his K-9 to freely “roam at large” unsupervised prior to the dog attacking nearby neighbors.
Kevin and Mary O’Neill, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, have also sued Cantwell individually.
While K-9 officers were allowed to have their K-9 dogs living at their residence off-duty, the lawsuit states that “Hendersonville required K-9 officers, including defendant Cantwell, to keep their K-9 dogs in a secure, fenced kennel while at the officer’s home unless the officer had active control over the dogs via a secure harness and leash.”
The incident cited occurred on August 2, 2020 in which Cantwell’s K-9 named Sunny, a Belgian Malinois, had been let out of its kennel on Cantwell’s property on Majestic Trace sometime before 1:50 p.m. The lawsuit alleges Cantwell did not maintain control over the K-9 and it roamed onto the O’Neill’s property on Majestic Trace in Hendersonville, attacking Mary as she attempted to get into a vehicle.
When Kevin heard the attack he ran to the door and used a key fob to unlock the car door so that Mary could get inside, the lawsuit states. At that time, the K-9 then ran after Kevin and attacked him, causing numerous abrasions and lacerations to his eyes, face, throat, chest, abdomen and other parts of his body.
The attack allegedly lasted 10 minutes.
“The dog should have never been allowed to roam at large and be loose,” said John McCabe, the attorney representing Kevin and Mary O’Neill.
Kevin O’Neill was treated for more than four hours at a nearby emergency room before being discharged.
Below are photos of his injuries provided in the lawsuit:
Both Mary and Kevin have since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the attack.
“There are the physical injuries, and there are the mental injuries,” said McCabe. “They’re trying to do the best they can with the circumstances. They are not doing well. They’re traumatized.”
The lawsuit states on August 3, 2020, former Police Chief Herbert Blake released a statement saying, “We deeply regret this happened and we take full responsibility for the incident.”
However, McCabe said the city has not attempted to resolve the case.
“If the city is going to say they accept responsibility for it, we want them to accept responsibility for it and to compensate the O’Neills for the damages they’ve incurred,” explained McCabe “Mr. O’Neill was victimized by this dog attack. Then, he feels like he’s been victimized a second time when he relied on the city to do what was right, and the city hasn’t done it. The city has really victimized him twice.”
The lawsuit also cites two previous incidents in which Cantwell’s “unsupervised German Sheperd” attacked the O’Neill’s Pomeranian in 2013. Another incident cited happened in 2015 in which Cantwell’s K-9 German Sheperd “attacked two of the neighbor’s family dogs, inflicting serious injuries to both dogs.”
The lawsuit states that the City of Hendersonville knew of the two prior incidents, but they “continued to allow him to keep police-issued dogs at his home.”
The K-9 was relieved of its duties and was deemed a “dangerous dog” by the police department, but was not euthanized.
Sgt. Cantwell was not disciplined, the lawsuit states. A spokesperson for the City of Hendersonville told 7NEWS Cantwell continues to be employed with the police department.
The City Of Hendersonville issued the following statement:
On October 25, 2022, a lawsuit was filed against the City of Hendersonville regarding an incident which occurred on August 2, 2020, involving former Hendersonville Police Department K9 Sunny. Because a lawsuit has been filed, the City is unable to comment further at this time.City of Hendersonville