The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit issued a decision Thursday that is shockingly cruel and inhumane, ruling that the Constitution doesn’t require law enforcement officers to prevent their police dogs from brutally mauling and disfiguring innocent people.
The court decided it was okay for officer’s dog to maul this man even though the officer knew he wasn’t the suspect
And if the decision stands, it means that Christopher Maney will not be able to sue officer Terrence Garrison, who allegedly allowed his police dog, Bikkel, to maul Maney so badly that he arrived at the hospital in critical condition and requiring a skin graft that was nearly 16 inches long, Slate reports.
What happened on the night Maney was attacked?
The facts of the case are absolutely horrifying.
One evening in 2010, Garrison and his dog were on the trail of a robbery suspect in High Point, North Carolina. Bikkel led Garrison to an abandoned house and attacked Maney, who was homeless at the time and crouching behind a bush near the front stoop. Garrison realized immediately that the man didn’t match the description of the robbery suspect. But thinking he might still be dangerous, he ordered Maney to show his hands before calling off the dog. But Maney was understandably not able to do this because he was trying to prevent the dog from biting his face off. He pleaded with Garrison to stop the dog’s attack, adding that he hadn’t done anything wrong. And he hadn’t — he wasn’t accused of any crime, Slate notes. But Garrison allowed the vicious attack to continue for another 10 seconds before calling the dog off. Then he handcuffed Maney and called for medical support.
So this begs the question, if Garrison knew Maney wasn’t the suspect, why did he handcuff him? Maney was grievously injured and being sent to the hospital, so why the handcuffs?
At the hospital it was discovered that Bikkel had bitten the top of Maney’s head, tearing away a two inch square area of skin, hair, and tissue. This is why he required a skin graft. There were also deep bites on his arm and thigh, leading to a brachial artery blood clot and profuse bleeding and bruising accompanied by swelling.
He needed time to convalesce and not long after that, Maney sued Garrison, alleging that his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure had been violated. As part of the Fourth Amendment, dog bites qualify as the seizure of a person, leading Maney to contend that Garrison prolonged Bikkel’s biting for an unreasonable amount of time.
But the Fourth Circuit Court disagreed with this, deciding that Garrison was protected from the lawsuit due to qualified immunity, meaning that it wasn’t “clearly established” that he violated a constitutional right. However, the majority says that Fourth Amendment precedents don’t ambiguously prevent officers from “prolong[ing] a dog bite seizure until a subject complies with orders to surrender,” writes Mark Joseph Stern for Slate. Instead, the majority compared the attack to a “Terry stop” (also called “stop and frisk”), which means an officer can temporarily stop and frisk people if there is “reasonable suspicion” to do so. And in this case, the majority decided Garrison had engaged in a Terry stop in which “the classic Terry tableau is replaced by something more dynamic.” Whatever the hell that means.
In her dissent, Judge Pamela Harris found this line of reasoning disturbing.
“Maney himself was not suspected of any crime, armed or not, and he did not attempt to flee, or to resist. Nevertheless, officer Garrison deliberately subjected him to a canine attack in order to rule out any possibility that he might pose a threat. Whether or not a more customary Terry stop might have been authorized, I think it is clear enough that the circumstances did not justify the sustained mauling of Maney. Clear enough, that is, to warrant denial of qualified immunity to Garrison on Maney’s excessive force claim.”
Harris also found the Terry analysis ridiculous, adding “there was not reasonable suspicion sufficient to support a Terry stop” to begin with. Prior to encountering Maney, Garrison had walked through a homeless camp a mere 150 yards away.
That prompted Harris to note:
“He was aware that there was a perfectly innocent explanation for Maney’s presence near the abandoned house. And I would not count against Maney to stand and identify himself, which Maney — quite reasonably, in hindsight — attributes to his fear that a sudden movement might prompt a dog attack. Citizens are under no free-standing obligation to identify themselves to the police.”
What this really means, Harris notes, is that Garrison didn’t have enough justification to even stop Maney. And he definitely didn’t have a good reason to “intentionally prolong a violent assault on Maney to determine whether he might pose a threat.” She writes that it’s entirely clear Garrison used excessive force as described by the Supreme Court of The United States, inflicting violence that was disproportionate and something that “no reasonable officer” would even consider legal. And because of this, Harris argued, Garrison shouldn’t be protected by qualified immunity.
Related: Appeals Court Determines Assault Rifles Are ‘Weapons Of War’ And Not Protected By 2nd Amendment
And this isn’t the only time Garrison has sicced his dog on people, notes the Sun-Gazette. Last April, the pair chased down a fleeing suspect. Chasing the man through the woods, it only took Bikkel two minutes to find him.
“My dog encountered him in a thicket,” Garrison said. “I couldn’t see him, all I could hear were the screams.”
He added that the man was bitten in the face and ankle.
And as Dog Bite Law notes, many Americans are bitten by these highly dangerous dogs.
What’s upsetting in Maney’s case is he was just an innocent man who almost certainly became frightened when Garrison and his barking, snarling dog encountered him. And this officer allowed the dog to keep attacking him, even after realizing Maney wasn’t the suspect he was looking for. This brings up unpleasant images of the Germans during World War II, and of police in the southern U.S. attacking blacks and anyone defending civil rights. It’s not the fault of the dogs who are doing what they are trained to do. That fault lies with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and law enforcement officials and who think this kind of thing is okay.
It’s never, ever okay.
Related: America Is Now A Police State
This graphic video, while not related to the story above, shows just how vicious these attacks can be. In this victim’s case, he took his partying a little too far and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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