After only a little more than two hours of deliberations, jurors on Wednesday sided with LaGrange police in a civil case where a man was bitten by a police K-9 during his arrest five years ago.
The plaintiff, Shajarvis Brown, 32, is currently in prison on armed robbery charges. In the Feb. 11, 2007, incident, he was being sought for questioning for the armed robbery and had warrants out for his arrest on felony drug charges.
Police found him in an apartment on Wilkes Street, where he was staying with family, hiding underneath a sink. According to the plaintiff, he gave up when officers found him underneath the sink, was handcuffed, marched into another room then assaulted by the K-9, Zeus, after his handler, officer Jeremy Butler, commanded him.
Brown’s attorney, Chevene B. King Jr., asked the jury to consider civil charges and compensation against the LaGrange Police Department for assault and battery and violation of Brown’s constitutional rights.
“This was an assault on my client’s right, a violation of his fourth amendment right to unreasonable seizure by manner of his arrest,” King said in his closing statement before the jury began deliberations. “Your primary consideration you are asked to focus on is what kind of force is it that an officer has the authority to use when making an arrest. I think the court will instruct you that an officer has the authority to use force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest, not limitless authority. Not enough to go overboard what is reasonable.”
King said even if the biting was necessary to get Brown under control, one or two should be enough. Brown had about 40 wounds on his leg from being bitten multiple times by the dog over about 45 seconds.
LaGrange police said Brown was combative when pulled from underneath the sink, flailing as officers tried to subdue him and kicking at the dog. Butler said he allowed the dog to bite Brown to get him under control and that Brown was not handcuffed at the time. Todd said that even though Brown had given up to Butler in a previous incident without a fight, he couldn’t assume the same would happen in the 2007 incident.
“(Butler) knew without a shadow of a doubt that (Brown) could be armed. He knew he likely was involved in an armed felony,” City Attorney Jeff Todd said in his closing statements. “He knew from training and common sense that the suspect knows the layout of the home, not the police. (Brown) knows what weapons he has in what hand, not the police. (Brown) knows what his intent is. The police, including Sgt. Butler, did not know any of this.”