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Man bit in face by Lodi police dog files suit against city, six officers

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Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:06 am, Sat Apr 9, 2011.

A man who was bit in the face by a police dog is suing the city of Lodi and six Lodi Police officers in federal court.

Dean Newhall suffered torn flesh, crushed tissue, punctures and severe nerve damage after a police dog bit him last April.

Newhall was allegedly under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident and attacked an officer, stole his baton and attempted to injure him, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said.

Newhall is facing criminal charges for battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

His attorney, Russell Humphrey, said his client filed the lawsuit because he was in custody and on the ground, handcuffed, when the police dog bit him in the face.

"With a 12-inch scar on your face for the rest of your life, it's going to affect your mental health, relationships and even the ability to get a job," Humphrey said.

On Wednesday night, the Lodi City Council voted to hire Stockton-based attorney Mark Berry, of Mayall, Hurley, Knutsen, Smith & Green, to help represent the six officers. The city is self-insured for liability up to $500,000 and will use a reserve fund to pay for the attorney.

"We don't hire outside counsel for standard employee cases. We do hire them in cases where the allegations are significant-looking allegations," Schwabauer said.

According to court documents Newhall and his attorney filed, police received a call on April 17 about a man yelling at traffic at Lockeford and Washington streets.

An officer arrived and tried to speak with Newhall, who was walking north on Main Street.

The officer said Newhall was under the influence. As Newhall began to walk away, the officer shouted at him to stop and get down on his knees.

That is when Newhall ran toward the officer. The officer swung a baton, but Newhall blocked it and the officer fell to the ground.

Another officer arrived and shot Newhall repeatedly with a Taser.

In total, six officers were on scene when police grabbed Newhall's arms and legs, cuffed his hands behind his back and subdued him by placing the weight of their bodies on him, Humphrey said.

According to the court documents, an officer with a canine arrived, locked his vehicle and rolled up all of the windows except one, and left Bronx, the police dog, in the car.

Newhall said he was on the ground with the canine officer holding his legs and searching him, when Bronx jumped from the car and bit the left side of Newhall's face.

While in his office, Humphrey got down on the ground and copied the position Newhall said he was in that day with his arms cuffed behind his back.

"This is not a case where the young man was committing a crime, or the police were chasing him and the dog bit him. ... What's particularly egregious about this is Mr. Newhall was on the ground hand cuffed, with a police officer laying on his back," Humphrey said.

The dog acted of its own volition, and Bronx was retired soon after the altercation, Schwabauer said.

Newhall filed a claim with the city, which is the first step toward a lawsuit, but the city rejected it.

"Someone engaged in an unprovoked attack on a police officer and knocked him on the ground and raised a baton to strike him on the head while he was on the ground," Schwabauer said. "I don't believe in paying people who do that money."

While he does not excuse his client's actions, Humphrey said one of the officers should have grabbed the dog or given it a verbal cue before it bit Newhall.

"Once someone is in the custody of the police department, I think the police have a duty to protect those people," he said.

Police dogs are trained to go for the arms or legs, and Humphrey said it is unfortunate it bit Newhall's face.

Since the dog bite, Newhall has already paid over $32,000 in medical bills, a number that Humphrey said will only keep increasing.

Newhall said in court documents that he is afraid to shave because he does not want to reveal the scar. He is also worried he will not be able to get a job working with the public because of the scars.

Humphrey is trying to get Newhall in touch with a plastic surgeon, and he hopes the lawsuit will result in Newhall getting as much money as he can to rebuild his life.

"I think obviously the police agency violated Mr. Newhall's civil rights," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:06 pm on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Charles stated...The fact that the dog was "retired soon after altercation" shows that the Dept. knew he was not acting with accordance with his responsibilities...

    I think a reasonable person could easily draw the conclusion Charles did. I think a prudent person would look at all the possibilities prior to drawing a conclusion. There are other possibilities in my opinion.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 7:36 pm on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 257

    The fact that the dog was "retired soon after altercation" shows that the Dept. knew he was not acting with accordance with his responsibilities. There's no excuse to attack a cuffed perp,who was in custody, and on the ground. An officer should ONLY be able to act in self-defense. It's not the place of Police Officers to dole out punishment of any kind. That's what the courts are for.

  • Carina Nava posted at 2:37 pm on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Carina Nava Posts: 1

    It seems like this is a trend for Lodi K-9s. This didnt come out in the newspaper but a few years ago a neighbor of a policeman was crossing the street to get his mail and the police dog got loose and attacked him while he was crossing the street.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 1:34 pm on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    But for his bad behavior and actions he took, he would not have a scar... If he has a right to sue, the law should be changed... I think it more the officers should be able to sue him for emotional distress in having to engage in solving the problem this man created. Thank you for naming the lawyer, its good to know who to avoid... I am sure if I stay away from lawyers chasing ambulances, Ill never run into him.

  • Robert Jacobs posted at 11:55 am on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Robert Jacobs Posts: 298

    His attorney, Russell Humphrey, said his client filed the lawsuit because he was in custody and on the ground, handcuffed, when the police dog bit him in the face.

    If the above is true, than this guy has every right to sue. That dog should be controlled at all times, just the fact that the dog jumped out of the cruiser and bit this guy says to me the dog wasn't trained right or is too aggressive!

    Of course even if this is proved and it happened like this guys lawyer says it did, and if the city loses a civil this civil suit, not one of those officers will face any kind of consequence because of it. Because law enforcement are rarely held accountable for their actions.

    I'll keep an eye on this case, that is if the media even reports on this again which many times is the case where law enforcement is concerned.

  • Betty Dean posted at 10:52 am on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Betty Dean Posts: 144

    I agree with all of your posts and he probably wont win in court because they will settle with him before it actually goes to court. Then he will have lots of money while he is in jail and money when he gets out! Now isnt that nice : )

  • Linda Evans posted at 6:00 pm on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Linda Evans Posts: 16

    Police dog brutality!

  • Robert Walker posted at 3:10 pm on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Robert Walker Posts: 10

    What I find interesting is that the dog attacked after Newhall was in handcuffs. Newhall's attorney is giving out the whole victim mentality on this. If Newhall was on drugs and out of his mind, whose to say he didn't continue fighting while handcuffed and on the ground. Maybe the K9 went into protection mode for his handler who was said to have been at the suspects legs "searching" him. Sure Newhall may have stopped for a moment but what if he started back up due to the police trying to search him. Just a thought for anyone looking to join Newhall's side. Mr. Newhall should do something good with his life and go show his scar at high schools in corollation with DARE programs. Maybe his experience could change the course of some young person's life. Just a thought for Mr. Newhall if he happens to read this.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:09 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Mr Adams... you said it so well... nothing more to say... except I'm surprised that the lawyer did not serve papers on the police dog as well. This lawyer is as bad as the defendant.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 10:51 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1879

    I guess Mr. Newhall wasn't so concerned with other peoples safty when he was attacking the police officer with a baton. Imagine the scar Mr. Newhall would have left on the officer if he had been successful in HIS attack. For some reason I don't think he is the kind that would have stopped swinging when the officer was down either.

  • Richard Turner posted at 9:26 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Richard Turner Posts: 80

    This man had been at Lawrence park ....that place is so out of hand, I live very close and every day there is a large group of people ...some homeless some not ...doing drugs right in plain view of everyone! they get drunk and fight and use the public bathroom to shoot up. there is a group of people who bring food and supply's to these people every week and I know they mean well ,but it just draws more people to the park .The salvation army doesn't allow people to be drunk or unruly. so when you offer up a place that is uncontrolled you get a result such as lawrance park. with the large number of children that walk to and from school ,you would think something would be done. It probably will be addressed only after something really bad happens to someone that lives on the other side of town.

  • Laura Rouzer posted at 8:32 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Laura Rouzer Posts: 55

    I agree with you Mr. Adams.

    If he is so concerned with how the scar is going to affect his future role as a model citizen then maybe it will serve as a reminder to quit drugs...doubtful though if there is a payout.

  • Henry Adams posted at 4:43 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    Henry Adams Posts: 6

    Play stupid games...
    ...Win stupid prizes

    It amazes me how people fail to take responsibility for their own actions.

    "With a 12-inch scar on your face for the rest of your life, it's going to affect your mental health, relationships and even the ability to get a job," Humphrey said.




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