President Donald Trump issued pardons to more than two dozen people this week, and among them was a former K-9 police officer who served a decade in prison after she released her police dog on a homeless suspect after he surrendered, resulting in a leg wound that required stitches.
Stephanie Mohr, a canine handler for the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland, received a full pardon on Wednesday from Trump, 25 years after her crime.
“She served 10 years in prison for releasing her K-9 partner on a burglary suspect in 1995, resulting in a bite wound requiring ten stitches,” the White House said in a statement. “Officer Mohr was a highly commended member of the police force prior to her prosecution. Today’s action recognizes that service and the lengthy term that Ms. Mohr served in prison.”
Mohr was convicted by a federal jury in 2001 of violating the man’s civil rights, as she set her dog on him after he surrendered, according to the Associated Press and the Washington Post.
The conviction came as the Prince George’s County Police Department faced an investigation by the Justice Department, as well as multiple lawsuits alleging police brutality, the Post reported.
According to court records, Mohr — who was new to the department — was among several police officers who responded to a possible burglary in Takoma Park, an area that had recently seen a rash of commercial burglaries.
Two men, including Ricardo Mendez, were found on the roof of a building, though it was later found that they were homeless and just sleeping there.
Police present at the time later testified that officers ordered the suspects down from the roof, and Mendez complied, keeping his hands in the air the entire time as per officer demands.
Testimony stated that after Mendez climbed down, another K-9 officer present asked if Mohr’s dog could “get a bite” — and after the officer and Mohr had a brief exchange, she released the dog, which attacked Mendez in the leg, despite the fact that he remained still and was not making any attempts to leave the scene.
Mohr’s version of events, however, was that she gave a K-9 warning while the suspects were still on the roof, and that Mendez did not follow orders and did not raise his hands despite being asked to multiple times. She also testified that he was trying to flee when she released the dog.
"My thought process was … you don't know what they're going to do when they come down. They could surrender, they could run – which they did, one tried to – or they could just fight," Mohr said, per USA Today. "My thought process was I have to be prepared … We had no idea about their status. We hadn't approached them, hadn't touched them, hadn't searched them."
The now-50-year-old Mohr told USA Today that she was “so grateful” for this week’s pardon.
“So many emotions flooding through me. It’s been a long, long, long battle for this,” she said. “There are issues with police brutality in our country. I was not a police officer who participated in that.”
She was one of 26 people to receive full pardons from Trump, while another three people had part or all of their sentences commuted. Notable names include Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
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