Last Thursday around noon, Monique Cotton, the parent of a Forest Park District 91 student, was standing in line for an inflatable attraction at the Bob Haeger All School Picnic.
As she waited, she was facing the demonstration area for the police department’s K-9 unit, which was scheduled for noon. As the show began, Cotton told the Review she could see the handler walking the dog around. Suddenly “the dog went directly for him,” she said, referring to a parent in the crowd watching the show.
Shortly after being unleashed by his handler, Killian, the police department’s dog, ignored a command to “heel,” jumped up onto the raised stone planter surrounding the flagpole and chomped down on the arm of a 42-year-old man who was sitting there.
Police jumped in and were able to pull the dog away from the man, preventing him from being bit a second time.
Police Chief Tom Aftanas witnessed the incident as well, calling it “unfortunate and unexplained.”
“He’s done this [demonstration] so many times before, and not just in Forest Park,” Aftanas said.
The victim sustained a puncture wound to his wrist. He was treated by Forest Park paramedics and was transported to Loyola University Medical Center.
A picnic attendee, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was sitting at the edge of the demonstration area and witnessed the incident from several feet away. In years past, the demonstration area, which was set-up near the park district building, included a stage. However, this year, a plastic frame with cardstock panels advertising local businesses was used as a barrier.
As the demonstration commenced, the handler began with an informational talk to spectators before removing the muzzle from the dog. After issuing several commands to the still-leashed dog, the witness said, “He took the leash off and the dog jumped right over the fence to the guy.”
Children and adults scrambled to get out of the way while the dog’s handler commanded Killian to release his bite.
“It seemed like they got the dog off pretty quickly,” Cotton said.
No other spectators were hurt. After the initial commotion, Cotton said the rest of the picnic activities resumed.
“Most of the kids didn’t even notice,” Cotton said. “They thought it was part of the show.”
She believes most adults realized the attack was not part of the demonstration, but the children in attendance may not have made that connection.
While the K-9 demonstration is an annual tradition, the incident has spelled the end to the demonstrations.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to do training demonstrations again,” Aftanas said. “If it’s happened once, it can happen again. We can’t take that chance.”
Killian has been with the department for about a year and will no longer participate in demonstrations. However, his other duties will continue, Aftanas said.
According to a press release from the Forest Park Police Department, “The victim did not provoke the dog in any way.
“We sincerely apologize to all attendees and the victim that this incident occurred.”
Bob Uphues contributed reporting for this article.