FBI investigating White County arrest after woman bit by police dog multiple times

Jul 21, 2020

WHITE COUNTY, Tenn. (WZTV) — The FBI is investigating a White County arrest where a woman was bit by a police dog many times before she was taken into custody. Federal agents will help decide whether the deputy handling the dog acted appropriately.

On April 3rd, the White County Sheriff’s office says deputies went to issue Tonya Qualls a felony warrant at her apartment. However, they say, at some point, she ran out of her apartment and into another one, where she hid.

In the body camera footage, you can hear deputy Brandon Young telling Qualls to come out or he will let the dog go.

“Last call, sheriff’s office, come out or you will be bit,” he says before letting the dog go.

Ali Hemyari is a law enforcement officer and is also a K-9 trainer at Nashville K-9.

“Typically, you deploy a dog in a felonious act or an act that needs to prevent any sort of injury or death to others,” Hemyari says.

After searching several rooms, deputies and the K-9 officer found Qualls in a bathroom closet. The body camera footage shows Young yelling numerous times, but the dog keeps biting. You can also hear Qualls say she’s down as she continues to scream because of the dog’s bites.

“Get him off of me please, get him off of me please,” Qualls says in the video.

The dog, however, continues to bite even after she is handcuffed.

“When the cuffs go on, the dog comes off,” Hemyari explains. “So, at that moment, or at the moment where there’s compliance, that’s it.”

Young echoed this in the parking lot after the arrest.

“You could have got that dog off of me,” Qualls can be heard saying.

“Once the handcuffs go on, the dog comes off,” Young responded.

“Well he didn’t, he was still on me,” Qualls replied.

“He was on you until I pulled him off after I put the handcuffs on you,” Young said in the video.

Hemyari says a lot of factors go into the deployment of a dog.

“Is this person a dangerous person, are they carrying a firearm, do they have a history of carrying weapons,” Hemyari questioned.

He says if an officer does something inappropriate or incorrect, that’s usually reflective of the quality of training, but he believes deputy Young could face a lot of civil and criminal liabilities. The sheriff’s office says deputy Young resigned from his position on July 1st, and an internal investigation report has been filed.

They also say Captain John Ford was released from employment on May 11th. “His termination was not related to this incident,” a spokesperson said.