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Injured Police Dog Holds on to Subway Attacker

Police Officer Tieniber and Bear
Police Officer Tieniber and Bear

Bear, a member of the NYPD Transit Bureau’s K-9 Unit, sustained four broken teeth and lacerations to his tongue when he and his handler, Police Officer Vincent Tieniber, 36, came to the aid of a fellow officer late Tuesday morning as he attempted to break up a violent dispute in a midtown Manhattan subway station. Though injured, Bear displayed the poise, courage and training associated with the K-9 Unit.

"Officer Tieniber and Bear are part of the reason why New York City mass transit is the safest it's been in memory," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. "They're a dynamic duo in the subways."

Bear and Officer Tieniber sprang into action after Police Officer Rafael Diaz of Transit District 4 called for assistance to stop a fight involving four women on the southbound express platform at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. One of the women, 19, was being choked by another 19-year-old when he intervened.  Working to stop the assault, Officer Diaz was pushed by the other two women.

Officer Tieniber and Bear arrived on the scene moments later to assist Officer Diaz but the women had still not calmed down.  Officer Tieniber suffered a sprained wrist while in the process of handcuffing one of the women, Ravenia Matos-Davis, 22 of Queens. Matos-Davis reportedly kicked Bear twice in the German shepherd’s mouth, cracking two teeth and chipping two others, cutting his tongue, and leaving scuff marks on his snout.

Although injured, “Bear kept the woman’s foot in his mouth, and held on until I could handcuff her,” Officer Tieniber recounted. Bear’s damaged teeth didn’t penetrate the woman’s footwear. Bear was treated and released from the Animal Medical Center at 510 East 62nd Street in Manhattan. He is due to return there today when his two canine teeth are expected to be capped, and two others shaved where they are currently chipped, after which time Bear is expected to return to full duty. Officer Tieniber was treated and released from Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan after the incident. He will also be re-evaluated in coming days to determine when he can return to duty.

Bear and his handler have been in tough spots before. In 2011, at the Broadway Junction station of the A train in Brooklyn, Officer Tieniber spotted three men wanted for robbery, one armed with a pair of scissors. Officer Tieniber lined all of the suspects against the station wall, and handcuffed them as Bear stood guard, with his big brown eyes fixed intently on the three. The same year, Officer Tieniber came upon an assault in progress by a suspect armed with a razor at the Atlantic Pacific station of the N,Q,R line. There, the suspect froze at Bear’s bark, allowing Officer Tieniber to make the arrest without further incident. The duo have also been responsible for tracking wanted suspects and recovering ballistic evidence, employing the combination of Officer Tieniber’s handling skills and Bear’s olfactory prowess. Bear, age 6, has been on the job for five years; Officer Tieniber for 11. 

The dog’s attacker was charged with injuring a police animal, the top charge among four that included disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration (OGA). Last month, the Legislature passed a bill which makes killing or injuring a police animal a Class E felony. It is currently a Class A misdemeanor. The legislation, expected to be sent soon to the Governor for his consideration, would become effective November 1.

Nineteen-year-old Alexandria James of the Bronx was charged with strangulation and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Her 19-year-old victim sustained bruising, scratches, and reported pain to her neck but refused medical attention. Tabricia Moore, 31, also of the Bronx, was charged with OGA, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.