The evening of April 13 at Holland Park, Palm Coast City Council member Ed Danko’s husky mix dog Marshall was accused of biting another dog, a doberman pinscher named Anubis, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s report and a Palm Coast Animal Control report. The doberman was injured–the bite or bites broke skin–but not severely.
Whether Marshall was the culprit isn’t certain from surveillance video: three other dogs were involved in the melee. The victim dog’s owner was several feet away from the dogs when the bite occurred. But he told animal control officers that he “clearly observed a husky mix type dog wht/blk in color with slight brown on its rear end” and bright white eyes” do the biting, according to animal control’s report. After some confusion when he initially spoke with a sheriff’s deputy at the scene, he pointed at “the one with the nice eyes” as the dog that bit. That would be Marshall.
Danko called law enforcement on the owner of the dog victim immediately after the incident when a verbal dispute arose. “He’s dropping F bombs like there’s no tomorrow,” Danko told a deputy. “You just don’t go up to people screaming and yelling. That’s when I called you guys. I didn’t know if he was going to get more violent or not. You got ladies here. Every other word out of his mouth starts with an F, so, what can I say?”
The dog owner, 35-year-old Robert Atiles, a resident of Palm Coast’s F-Section, told a sheriff’s deputy he was upset at Danko’s indifference and cussed at him but had more issues with Shirley Anderson, a retired sheriff’s deputy who he said got in his face, as surveillance video clearly shows she did.
“I’m screaming at the guy because he’s on his phone and nobody is helping me, I went right back and forth past him,” Atiles told a deputy, referring to Danko. “Next thing you know this lady is in my face, I’m not even worried about the guy, I’m trying to get my dog, I had to put my dog up out of the whole thing. Yeah, anybody’s going to be excited.”
Dog Park Surveillance Video of the Incident:
Surveillance video shows Atiles walking toward Danko when the dogs were roughing it up, before the bite, to try to catch his attention. Danko, on the phone, ignores him and at one point walks away, right before the bite occurs. Kobe Raisor, 23, who was across the pond, then runs toward the gazebo: “From across the pond I saw a husky bite the doberman’s back,” he wrote in a sworn statement, then I ran to help Robert separate the dogs because no one was helping.” Anderson was in Atiles’ face, Raisor wrote. “I stepped in to separate them. After that Robert was trying to leave and ‘Mr. Councilman’ was yelling at Robert and cussing at him saying he was going to call the cops.”
Atiles didn’t want to press charges against Anderson. Anderson was quick to point out to the deputy who responded to the call that she was “retired LEO,” and Danko himself at one point, prompted by someone else there, made clear to the deputy that he is a city council member.
It was an odd exchange. Sheriff’s deputy Benjamin Stamps asked him for his ID. Danko pulled out his driver’s license, then pulled his ID back as he asked, referring to Atiles: “Are you giving him our information?”
“I’m documenting everything, and then if it goes to court, then all that will be–” the deputy replied. Danko waved off the suggestion: “It ain’t going anywhere,” he said, handing over the ID. When his companion mentioned that he’s on the city council, Danko told the deputy: “I think you guys keep my name separate on things like this, right?”
“We’ll redact stuff or whatever,” the deputy said, as he wrote Danko’s information. There is nothing redactable from public record laws, whether Danko was a council member or not, except for Anderson’s home address, since she is a former law enforcement officer (but not her name).
Body Cam Video of Deputy Stamps’s Investigation:
“Yeah,” Danko tells the deputy, “make sure they know I’m a city councilman in Palm Coast.”
“Your name is probably flagged and all that good stuff,” the deputy says–again, incorrectly, though Danko’s address on the report is City Hall rather than his W-Section home address. Danko refused to provide a sworn, written statement to the sheriff’s deputy investigating the case, though that’s not an unusual occurrence for deputies at incident scenes.
While Danko accused Atiles of belligerence, animal control officers accused Danko of belligerence toward them the next day.
On April 14, the two animal control officers, Kasey Hagen and Heather Priestap, went to Danko’s W-Section home to speak to him about the incident. They saw him and a woman–his companion Renee Berry-Wickowki, who had been at the dog part the previous evening–“about to pull out of the driveway.” Hagan flagged him down, informed him of the purpose of the visit and asked him for his account of the incident, which he did.
“I informed Danko that I had obtained all of the evidence from [the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office] to include body worn camera footage, as well as the police report” Hagan’s report reads, “and was able to review surveillance footage which clearly depicts the incident unfold. Danko was extremely uncooperative when I was explaining the ten day quarantine protocol and stated he is not signing anything and will fight this because his dog did not bite anyone.”
Priestap told him the incident had already been discussed with Code Enforcement Manager Barbara Grossman and Development Director Jason DeLorenzo “on how this case would be handled” as she provided him the required form to complete.
“At which point Danko stated he had to leave for a podcast and became more hostile and attempted to drive off almost running over my foot,” Hagan reported. Danko quickly stopped and tried to argue that I was now claiming he ran over my foot, to which I replied I did not state that, however, he would have, had he not stopped from trying drive off in an aggressive/agitated manner.” (Similar allegations often result in aggravated assault charges against individuals who do the same toward law enforcement officers, even when the vehicle is a few feet away). “After Danko left the scene I contacted Barbara Grossman and notified her of what took place. At this time Danko has not signed a quarantine agreement nor has he provided any proof of vaccination history for his animal/animals and no animals are licensed with the city at his residence.”
Danko in an interview today described matters differently. He was driving off in an SUV with Berry-Wickowki–both adopted Marshall five months ago as a rescue; the dog is originally from Marshall, Texas–for an appointment when the animal control officers flagged them down. Utility workers were laying down broadband fiber cables. The workers had the cables “spread across the driveway, held it up over the vehicle,” he said. “At that point the animal control showed up. We’re stopped in my driveway and these workers are holding the cable up over my vehicle.”
Danko told the officers he was “running a bit late” and asked what he could do for them, challenging the claim that his dog was the culprit. “The video doesn’t show anything except several dogs running around and yapping at each other and the dogs being split up, so there’s no proof that my dog bit this other dog,” he said. He told the officers he would speak with city staff and said goodbye. He dismissed the claim that he’d risked running over the officer. “Really, seriously, you’re standing three feet from my car?”
Danko said he met with DeLorenzo and Denise Bevan, the city manager, who he said told him his dog was not being accused of biting the other dog–in other words, that it would not be counted as a strike against him, in the graduated approach to the determination of a dangerous dog–because the evidence wasn’t clear, but that his dog had to quarantine, otherwise all the dogs at the park would have to quarantine.
The meeting took place on April 18, five days after the incident, though that included Good Friday and that weekend, city offices were closed all three days. DeLorenzo confirmed almost everything Danko stated, with one nuance: Bevan and DeLorenzo did not make any determination about whether Danko’s dog bit the other dog or not since it wasn’t their place to do so.
“We don’t make that determination,” DeLorenzo said. “There was witnesses, you have that video and the testimony of those witnesses. The only thing we relied on is witness testimony, and the witness to a police officer obviously is a sworn statement.” In other words, the administration is standing by the animal control report, which concludes that Marshall bit Anubis, the doberman.
But Danko is correct: the bite does not count against Marshall, as determined by Grossman. “It has to do with the severity of the bite–it wasn’t severe,” DeLorenzo said.
Danko had also had an issue with the animal control officers showing up unannounced–as did the administration. “That seemed terribly inefficient to me,” DeLorenzo said. “We got lucky this time, both people were available, but it seems we should make contact first, and for a time that is convenient for the other party.”
DeLorenzo said the April 18 meeting was conversational and cooperative. Danko has, in fact, projected a more collegial and engaged personality for the past few months, in contrast with his first year on the council, when he was more bluster, fury and accusations.
Danko still maintains that there’s no proof his dog did the biting, and that he only agreed to sign the required papers to avoid all other dogs at the park getting quarantined as a result. “I said no no no, I’ll take the bullet on this one, and we did,” he said.
Danko signed the required papers that day and quarantined the dog and provided the dog’s medical history, which was in order. The dog’s quarantine is dated from the time of the bite, not the time when the papers are signed, because it’s directly related to a public health issue, not a punishing matter. It’s all about rabies. The dog that does the actual biting is quarantined to ensure that it’s not carrying rabies. If it were just a carrier, it could show no symptoms–until it bites another creature. When it does, it’s the animal that bites–not the bitten animal–that shows symptoms first, usually within a few days.
Danko says he goes to the dog park around five days a week. Since the end of the quarantine, he said, he’s returned there with his dog muzzled, as he intends to from now on, so there’s never any possibility of a similar accusation in the future. He’s proposing to city staff to consider adopting that as a rule for all dogs at the dog park.
Atiles told animal control that Anubis’s wounds were treated at home by his partner, who is a veterinarian technician. Anubis, animal control found, was “extremely friendly and showed no sign of aggression.”