Parents upset after child’s injuries by Winnipeg police dog not under investigation

Parents upset after child’s injuries by Winnipeg police dog not under investigation

Two parents of a five-year-old boy who was viciously bitten by a Winnipeg police dog say they’re confused and distraught after being told Manitoba’s police decided not to investigate the matter.

Femi and Omolara Aloba, the five-year-old boy’s parents, say they feel what happened to their son has been treated poorly and that neither the police, nor the body set up to investigate them, has treated the matter seriously.

“This saddens my heart right now, and I feel that we are probably being treated in a certain way,” said Femi Aloba.

“You don’t just sweep things under the carpet. You don’t just downplay things. You’re talking about a five-year-old,” he said. “He was in a safe spot … in his school.”

Femi and Omolara Aloba’s son was attacked during a Dec. 14 visit by the Winnipeg Police Service’s canine unit to Samuel Burland School.

An investigator from the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) told CBC News on Wednesday that after reviewing the incident, they determined it did not fall within the “serious injury classification,” because the child was taken to hospital but not admitted.

The investigator said the decision may change, and an independent investigation could be launched, if there is enough public interest in the incident.

The parents said they’ve yet to be contacted by anyone from the IIU and only learned about the unit’s decision to decline to investigate when they were contacted by the CBC.

Omolara said when she arived at the school, she was immediately struck by her son crying, and she started crying as well.

Omolara was told the students could pose for photos with the police dog. While walking toward the dog, her son tripped, she was told. According to one witness, he fell on the dog. Another said he fell in front the dog.

In both versions, the dog proceeded to bite the child.

A photo taken while waiting to be seen by doctors shows the injuries to the boy's lips sustained in the attack by the Winnipeg Police Service dog. (Submitted to CBC by Femi Aloba)

A photo taken while waiting to be seen by doctors shows the injuries to the boy’s lips sustained in the attack by the Winnipeg Police Service dog. (Submitted to CBC by Femi Aloba)

In a statement issued the day of the incident, school principal Ross Cathers said a student “was provided with the necessary medical care on-site” and transported to hospital as “an additional precaution.”

The child’s parents described his injuries as significant which required medical attention, saying part of his lower lip was “dangling” after being torn by the bite.

The boy arrived at the hospital around noon and didn’t see a doctor until after 7 p.m.

“My son was so weak … because he couldn’t eat anything,” Omolara said.

The doctor told them because of nature of the injuries, a plastic surgeon would have to do the stitching an hour later.

Now, after a week, the parents say their boy is feeling better, but they see scars that run deeper than those on his face.

“My child is scared,” said the boy’s mom. When Omolara takes him to bed, he now wants her to stay with him.

“He has never said that before. He has been sleeping on his own since he was a year old.”

The parents said they had a scare last Saturday, as the family ate.

The boy held his throat and appeared as if he was vomiting or choking.

They say they tried to get him to tell them what was wrong — because he was only having spaghetti and vegetables — but for about 30 minutes he continued that way.

Femi Aloba says they called paramedics. Although he says they couldn’t explain what was wrong, they still admitted the child into the hospital.

There was no sign of a blockage, yet the boy held onto his mouth and throat until he went to bed that night.

“We were really terrified,” said Femi Aloba. “That has never happened before. We’ve never had to take him to the hospital in a rush. He doesn’t have any allergies and he didn’t eat anything different from what he’s used to eating.”

The bite from the Winnipeg Police Service's dog knocked out the five-year-old boy's tooth and wounded his lower and upper lips. (Submitted to CBC by Femi Aloba)

The bite from the Winnipeg Police Service’s dog knocked out the five-year-old boy’s tooth and wounded his lower and upper lips. (Submitted to CBC by Femi Aloba)

Not serious enough: IIU

What the Independent Investigation Unit considers a serious injury is clearly defined and doesn’t include every kind of injury.

While it does include “cuts or lacerations,” for example, it goes on to define those as injuries “that require admission to a hospital on an in-patient basis.”

It also includes “the loss of any part of the body.”

The family said the boy’s tooth was loose before the incident, but it was the force of the dog’s jaws that dislodged it.

“How serious can it get?” asked Omolara.

Femi implores if the injures don’t meet the unit’s standard, someone from the agency should contact the family to inform them.

“You don’t think that it’s important to reach out to the family? Do you know how difficult and how painful this has been for us?” he said. “We are glad that it wasn’t worse.”

The father also said there should be a level of responsibility from the IIU itself.

“If it were to be their own child, would they have said the same thing? Wouldn’t they have wanted to get an explanation of what happened, how it happened and what the organization would do to prevent it in the future?”

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