A white officer in Missouri allowed his police dog to repeatedly bite a Black suspect who had been pinned against a squad car by two other cops while being arrested this week.
And the incident Monday in the St. Louis suburb of Woodson Terrace, caught on video by a bystander, is being likened to police tactics used against Black protesters during the civil-rights movement.
"The cellphone video shows the dog biting the man's foot as he yells out in pain. The dog's handler holds it by a leash but allows the biting to go on for about 30 seconds," the Associated Press reports. "After the officer pulls off the dog, the man appears to take a step to run but stumbles, and the dog lunges at him again, this time biting a leg for another 30 seconds until the officer stops the animal. Officers then handcuff the man, who seems to be barely able to walk as he is led to a squad car."
According to a news release posted on Facebook by the Woodson Terrace Police Department, the officers encountered the suspect while responding to a report of a person trespassing at a business and refusing to leave. The department said the suspect threatened to kill the officers, claimed to be "a sovereign citizen," appeared to be on drugs, and tried to wander into rush hour traffic, forcing them to block it so he wouldn't get hit.
"The subject was then warned several times that if he did not comply the K9 would be released," the release states. "The subject continued to resist causing minor injuries to one of the officers so the K9 was released and the K9 gained control of the suspect's foot. The suspect went to the ground and the K9 was pulled off the subject. After the K9 was pulled off of the suspect the officers attempted to place the subject into handcuffs but due to the subject being under the influence of drugs he continued to resist and the officers were unable to restrain the subject. The subject got up and attempted to flee from the officers and the K9 was released again biting the suspect on his leg. The officers were able to handcuff the subject and the K9 was pulled off."
After video of the incident sparked outrage online, the St. Louis Post Dispatch's editorial board wrote Tuesday that the officers used the dog "just like Birmingham's infamous public safety chief, Bull Connor, did in the 1960s to deter Blacks from marching for equal rights."
"This incident bears all the hallmarks of cops deciding to issue their personal form of street justice — inflicting pain and punishment on the spot instead of waiting for the courts to do their job," the board wrote.
Meanwhile, police canine expert Michael Gould called the video "problematic," in an interview with the local NBC affiliate.
"The fact of the matter is, it's a human reflex response, you can't have an 80-pound dog puncturing your skin and be compliant. It's virtually impossible," Gould said. "There could be underlying factors that I'm not aware of, but it was disturbing and I would look into it very carefully, why other levels of force would not have been utilized. Based on what I said and saw it looked like the subject was under control."
The AP reported that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said in a statement that his office "is aware of this video, and we will make a thorough review of the incident."
Woodson Terrace police release canine on suspect www.youtube.com