An 81-year-old Hmong grandmother from Minnesota was working in her backyard last Sunday when she was suddenly attacked by a police dog and bitten on the arm.
Now, Hmong community leaders in the city are demanding an investigation from the mayor and the Coon Rapids Police Department on the matter.
Family members also alleged that the victim, Choua Xiong, sustained several cuts and bruises after she was dragged by police officers about 100 feet from her shed to the police car.
According to the police incident report, local authorities received a call on the morning of Feb. 5 regarding a possible burglary suspect near the area where Xiong was residing.
Her grandson explained that she had been putting some of her belongings into the shed that morning.
In a Facebook post, the police department provided the details of the incident.
As they investigated, they chanced upon the light of a flashlight coming from a backyard shed. Thinking it was the suspect they were looking for, they claimed to have shouted multiple warnings, before releasing a police dog into the shed after not receiving a response.
“7:05 a.m. – Started an ambulance routine; canine released to go into the shed and apprehend suspect
“7:06 a.m. – Suspect was in custody and being taken to hospital; woman bitten on arm by dog”
The post also noted that the mistake was only realized after the grandmother was already taken into custody.
“It was only after the burglary suspect was taken into custody that officers later learned the person apprehended was an 81 year-old non-English speaking female. She apparently was unable to comprehend any of the commands officers gave her that would have led her to come out of the shed on her own and avoid any further intervention by the officers.”
Hmong 18 Clan Council, an organization representing 18 Hmong clans in Minnesota, organized a rally outside the Coon Rapids City Hall on Friday to demand an investigation and seek for an improvement of the police department’s cultural competency.
“Many in the Hmong community believe there should be an investigation and, if warranted, disciplinary actions,” Hmong-American community activist Tou Ger Bennett Xiong told NBC News.
“Grandmas should not fear for their lives in their own homes. To brush this off as an unfortunate incident and misunderstanding is unacceptable. To blame this on the fact that Grandma did not speak English reflects how insensitive and culturally incompetent the Coon Rapids PD staff are.”
As of press time, the incident remains closed and no further investigation is being pursued. According to its Facebook post, the officers had acted appropriately.
“I spoke to my canine officers and they feel horrible about this whole thing happening,” Police Chief Brad Wise was quoted as saying.
“The truth of the matter is they were shocked and horrified when they saw that in fact this was an elderly woman who didn’t speak English. The officers are human beings and a lot of them have grandmothers themselves. And it’s painful to know that this happened and there’s no question that we go back and we reassess how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The family is seeking a formal explanation and an apology from the police department.