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Man Left in Handcuffs After 56 Dog Bites and Witness Exoneration

A Northern California man has filed a federal lawsuit against Contra Costa County, the cities of Oakley and Pittsburg, California, and an individual Oakley officer he claims sicced a police dog on him in the course of an armed robbery investigation in which the man was just a bystander. The man was simply walking home from work when he was taken as a suspect and then deliberately attacked and repeatedly bitten by a police dog.

The dog bit the innocent man 56 times on his back, arms, face and a leg in what appears to have been a pretty straightforward case of undue force by the officers, if the man's allegations are true.

According to the lawsuit, the man was walking home from his job as a hotel handyman and happened to cross paths with the Oakley police officer who was on the lookout for a man who had just committed an alleged armed robbery at a nearby liquor store. Ostensibly believing the handyman was the suspected armed robber, the officer pulled up in a police cruiser and got out, bringing along his K9 partner. He then ordered the handyman to lie down on the ground.

The handyman got down on his knees and put his hands over his head, but this did not satisfy the officer. He pulled out his gun, pointed it at the handyman, and yelled at him to comply. He also ordered the dog to begin circling the man threateningly. Then, for no discernible reason, the officer sicced the dog on the innocent handyman.

The dog attacked from behind and bit the struggling handyman numerous times even as other units from Pittsburg and possibly other areas arrived, leapt from their cars, pointed their guns at the handyman and shouted orders. The man tried to comply with their orders but could not because of the vicious dog attack.

Eventually, the Oakley officer called off the dog and handcuffed the handyman. When the robbery victim from the liquor store was brought over to identify him, it all became clear. This man was a completely innocent bystander -- he had no connection to the robbery at all.

None of the numerous units left to pursue the actual robber, however. Instead, they stood around and taunted the injured man for some time before letting him go home to call an ambulance. He was treated for approximately 56 puncture wounds from the police dog's bites.

The handyman has sued the officer and police agencies for negligent and intentional violations of the California civil code including excessive force, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. For each violation, he is seeking $25,000.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Worker Claims Police Had Dog Maul Him," Rebekah Kearn, June 6, 2013

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