Wilkes-Barre officer bitten by K9 might join pending suit against city

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
Additional claims, including one by a Wilkes-Barre police officer, might be filed against the city and K9 Officer Joseph Homza, shown with dog Chase, for bites by the animal while on duty. The officer who might join the lawsuit was bit in December. - Times Leader file photo

WILKES-BARRE — A dog-bite lawsuit pending against the city could expand with the addition of other plaintiffs, including a Wilkes-Barre police officer.

So far Joshua Fought, of Berwick, is the only one suing the city and alleging civil-rights violations from his arrest and attack by police K9 Chase in July 2017 on Public Square.

A filing Friday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Scranton asked for permission to amend the civil suit for a second time to add more plaintiffs and consolidate their claims against the city.

Fought’s attorney, Kevin Mincey of Philadelphia, said Chase and K9 officer Joseph Homza were involved in another bite Sept. 4 while on duty. Two days later, Wilkes-Barre Police Officer Anthony Falcone contacted Mincey’s law firm for representation for a dog bite from Chase on Dec. 17, 2017.

A message left with Mincey was not immediately returned.

The city has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, said Wilkes-Barre City Attorney Tim Henry. The case is being handled by attorneys hired by the city’s insurance carrier.

The bite incidents have been well-publicized.

Falcone’s bite was the third and it prompted Mayor Tony George to order Chase to be taken out of service in January and — with the city’s other K9 Skoty — undergo an evaluation for suitability for the job. The dogs were given the OK to return and Chase was reactivated in July while Skoty and his new K9 officer required additional training.

But Chase bit officer Shane Smith in September and was temporarily deactivated. An internal investigation determined there were no departmental violations and a recommendation was made to have officers trained on how to interact with the dogs.

Fought filed the pending suit in October 2017 and agreed to stay the civil proceedings while his criminal case worked its way through Luzerne County Court. In June, a jury acquitted him of a charge of resisting arrest. A month later, the stay was lifted in the federal case.

Additional claims, including one by a Wilkes-Barre police officer, might be filed against the city and K9 Officer Joseph Homza, shown with dog Chase, for bites by the animal while on duty. The officer who might join the lawsuit was bit in December.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_TTL072518Police2.jpgAdditional claims, including one by a Wilkes-Barre police officer, might be filed against the city and K9 Officer Joseph Homza, shown with dog Chase, for bites by the animal while on duty. The officer who might join the lawsuit was bit in December. Times Leader file photo

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.