‘You Fight We Bite Non-Whites.’ Rule by intimidation. From [HERE] The family of a man killed by a Montgomery police dog last summer has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging civil rights violations due to unlawful and excessive force.
Joseph Pettaway died on July 8 after a police dog attacked him inside a Montgomery home and he died of a ruptured artery in his thigh.
Walter Pettaway, Joseph Pettaway's brother, filed the lawsuit Friday against the city and police Chief Ernest Finley, in addition to numerous unnamed police officers.
The Montgomery Police Department had no comment regarding the lawsuit, per city protocol.
The suit alleges Pettaway, whose family lived in the west Montgomery neighborhood in which he died, was employed in a house repair project in the 3800 block of Cresta Circle. The house was unoccupied at the time, according to the lawsuit.
Montgomery police said Pettaway was believed to have been burglarizing a Cresta Circle home when the homeowner approved a K-9 unit entry. Pettaway's family, who lives in the neighborhood, said he frequently visited the home and wouldn't have a reason to break in.
The lawsuit alleges Pettaway had been at the house the night of July 7 for a "barbecue" with others before leaving at 11 p.m. Sometime in the early hours of July 8, Montgomery police responded to the house on a burglary-in-progress call.
Montgomery police said this summer the homeowner approved the K-9's entry, but the lawsuit questions the use of fatal force when Pettaway "at no time" tried to "actively resist or threaten MPD police, give any indication or basis for reasonable suspicion he was armed, or attempt to flee from MPD police," the suit alleges.
"From the screams and/or pleas of Mr. Pettaway heard by MPD police during the attack ... they knew that the police dog was attacking Joseph Lee Pettaway and knew that he was being violently injured by the dog, i.e., he was being mauled and his flesh was being torn and ripped by the police dog ...," the lawsuit alleges. "After the police dog began attacking Mr. Pettaway inside the house, [MPD police] allowed the police dog to continue this violent attack on Mr. Pettaway, during which time no MPD policeman entered the house and intervened or took any actions that effectively restrained or ceased the police dog’s attack on Mr. Pettaway."
"During the police dog attack, it was not possible for Mr. Pettaway to surrender to the police since there were no policemen present inside the house where the dog attack was occurring."
The Montgomery Advertiser in July asked MPD if the K-9's handler entered the home with the dog. MPD declined to answer, referring to an ongoing State Bureau of Investigation probe at the time.
The SBI, a department within the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, has since completed its investigation, a spokesperson said last month.
ALEA has denied the Pettaway family access to its completed investigation and report, Pettaway family attorney Griffin Sikes and his law partner Chip Nix say.
Donald Cook, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney who for decades has litigated police dog bite cases, said deaths from police dog attacks are statistically rare for several reasons.
“Most people who die from civilian dog attacks are very young or very old, are bitten by more than one dog, and they’re not able to defend themselves," Cook said. "Police dog victims are a different story. Most of the victims tend to be adult males. Usually, it’s only one dog. Finally, human intervention is there. Cops can call for medical help right away. The major cause or likely cause of death from a police dog attack is bleeding to death. If you have competent medical personnel available, they can stop that massive bleeding."
Cook has coined the term "Lassie or Rin Tin Tin effect," where dogs are an "extremely sympathetic factor" in American society. He worries this and the Robinette v. Barnes opinion allows disassociation from the consequence of using the dog, which can often treat subjects with a level of violent force its human counterpart could never legally inflict.
"What people don’t get is that dogs can’t think. They don’t know how to use force," Cook said. "Would any cop have gone up to (Briggs) and banged on his throat with his baton? You can’t do that. The dog does what it does, because it’s a dog. Cops can avoid responsibility for the consequences." [MORE]