A married couple trying to elude San Diego County Sheriff''s deputies are suing the county and the deputies involved for excessive force used during their apprehension. The women say the San Diego County Sheriff's deputies, who had ultimately apprehended the women, mumbled derogatory statements about them being gay. The say one deputy sicced their police dog on one of the women while another deputy repeatedly struck the other with his flashlight.
A California Highway Patrol unit pulled over Michelle Christina Rivera and Suzanne Steinmeier for expired registration tags in April 2015. The officer discovered both women had outstanding warrants. Steinmeier, now 36, who was driving at the time, sped off. A high-speed pursuit ensued. Steinmeier pulled off on an exit in Fallbrook. They exited the car and ran into a ravine, eventually hiding under shrubs. The couple remained there, lying down in what the lawsuit describes as "passive resistance" when deputies approached. Despite the apparent surrender, Deputy Frank Leyva unleashed his police dog, but not before allegedly calling the women, "god-damned lesbians."
The dog tore into Rivera, say the women, resulting in severe injuries to her leg. Steinmeier began kicking the dog. Several deputies responded by hitting Steinmeier — one of the deputies did so with what is presumed to be a flashlight.
In the complaint, attorneys for the women say because the women did not present harm to deputies or to the public, then the use of the police dog amounts to excessive force.
In doing so, Rivera and Steinmeier's attorneys argue that the true motivation behind siccing the dog on them was to punish them for evading police.
According to the complaint Levya has been accused of misusing his police canine on multiple occasions, however in all cases his supervisors have not found him at fault.
The use of police dogs to apprehend suspected criminals has come under scrutiny in recent years.
On December 6, 2016, as first reported by the Reader, San Diego city councilmembers agreed to pay a man $385,000 for injuries he suffered from a police canine.
The case will now make its way through state court.