LaGrange police are facing accusations of excessive force and maliciousness in a 2007 incident where a suspect was bitten by a police K-9 while being apprehended.
The civil trial began Wednesday in state court. LaGrange police and specifically officer and K-9 handler Jeremy Butler are accused of maliciously letting Butler’s dog Zeus bite Shajarvis Antwan Brown, 32, after finding Brown hiding underneath a sink during a search of the residence he was staying in on Wilkes Street on Feb. 11, 2007. Brown was wanted on felony drug warrants and questioning in an armed robbery. He currently is serving a sentence for armed robbery in the Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls.
Brown and his attorney, Chevene B. King Jr. of Albany, said that Brown came out from under the sink and did not resist, but once he was handcuffed, Butler allowed the dog to bite him on the leg. King asserted Thursday during cross examination of Butler that Butler wanted to get back at Brown for prior incidents. In 2006, Butler had used Zeus to search for Brown in a house, but Brown gave up without incident. King and Brown also claim that Butler sent Zeus after Brown at a gas station, but Brown escaped, an incident Butler denies ever happened.
“Because of a previous situation where Mr. Brown escaped a situation to bite, now it was vengeance,” King said during cross-examination of Butler.
“It was far from that,” Butler responded.
Butler said Brown had to be pulled from under the sink by two officers, and Brown continued to resist four officers, not including himself, as they tried to put him on his stomach to handcuff him. Butler said Brown was continuously warned about the dog, including announcing himself before he entered the residence.
He said Brown tried to kick him and the dog several times, and Butler either commanded or allowed Zeus to bite Brown as a way to get him under control. Butler said using the dog in that situation was acceptable under reasonable use of force policy.
“He wasn’t doing, continuously, what he was told to by officers,” Butler testified. “… He was on his back, his arms going, legs going, pulling away, snatching away … kicking at me and my dog.”
Audio tapes of the incident from some of the officers’ body packs were presented. In one tape, officers can be heard telling Brown to “get down” or “get out” after finding him under the sink. After a several seconds of yelling among Brown and officers along with the dog barking, Brown can be heard screaming to get the dog away and saying he’ll comply.
Brown was bitten on the lower right thigh by the dog and taken to West Georgia Medical Center for treatment. In the pre-trial order, the plaintiff says the incident caused “great physical and psychological pain and agony.”
The civil case will be decided by a jury and was expected to continue this morning.