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Michigan Trooper Is Charged After Setting Dog on Man for Nearly 4 Minutes

A state trooper in Michigan has been charged with felonious assault for using a police dog to subdue an unarmed man for nearly four minutes in November, an encounter that the authorities say left the man with bite injuries and was recorded on a police dash camera.

The trooper, Parker Surbrook, was suspended without pay and removed from the canine unit, said the Michigan State Police, which released the dash camera footage of the episode on Friday.

Trooper Surbrook pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Friday and was granted $5,000 bond, according to court records. A lawyer for the trooper said his client’s use of force was justified and that dash camera video did not show the full context of the confrontation.

Investigators said that during a traffic stop on the night of Nov. 13 in Lansing, Mich., the driver and his male passenger in a sport utility vehicle, who the police believed were armed, fled from officers. The driver led officers on a high-speed chase that ended when his vehicle crashed into a tree, the dash camera video shows.

When officers arrived at the crash scene, the driver could already be seen lying on the ground, with Trooper Surbrook shouting at the police dog, a German shepherd named Knox, to subdue him. The man can be heard in the video pleading with Trooper Surbrook to pull Knox off him as the dog puts him in a hold and appears to bite him several times.

“Please, sir, he’s on my face,” the man yelled. Trooper Surbrook replied, “I don’t care.”

Officers said they recovered a handgun from the passenger, who was handcuffed for nearly two minutes while the dog remained on the driver.

“Please, sir,” the man said. “Please, sir. Please, I’m begging you, sir. Please, sir. Please.”

He was hospitalized for a hip injury that he sustained in the crash and was also treated for bite injuries, according to an investigation report released by the Michigan State Police. The authorities did not identify the man, and he was not charged.

Investigators said they had reviewed photos taken by Trooper Surbrook and the man’s girlfriend of the bite injuries to the man’s arm, torso and neck. The man also told an investigator that he had been bitten on his head, genitals, shoulder blade and thighs, the report said.

Trooper Surbrook, 33, who joined the Michigan State Police in 2012 and became a K-9 handler in 2017, commended the German shepherd as the episode unfolded.

“Stay on him,” he can be heard telling the dog in the video. “Good boy.”

The director of the Michigan State Police, Col. Joseph Gasper, said in a statement on Friday that Trooper Surbrook’s actions were not consistent with standards of professional conduct for troopers and did not align with training and policy for canine handlers.

Under the canine policy of the Michigan State Police, dogs should be used to subdue felony suspects only when the circumstances present an imminent danger to law enforcement personnel.

“While the unfortunate reality for police officers is that use of force is sometimes a necessary action to ensure the protection of themselves or others, care and concern for human life should always be at the forefront of any police officer’s actions,” Colonel Gasper said. “This makes Trooper Surbrook’s disregard of the driver’s pleas for help totally unacceptable.”

Patrick O’Keefe, the lawyer for Trooper Surbrook, said in an interview on Monday that Trooper Surbook was working as part of a multi-jurisdictional unit that seeks to reduce violent crime. In this case, the driver had been on parole in Oregon and the passenger had been on probation in Michigan, he said, without providing details.

“I believe that one of the officers may have seen the passenger get into the car with a gun,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “The suspects reached speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone.”

He also said Trooper Surbrook was being wrongly judged on the words he used in a tense moment.

“Just because he made an insensitive comment here or there doesn’t make him guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon,” he said. “We question whether a dog can actually be a dangerous weapon.”

The charge of felonious assault, also known in Michigan as assault with a dangerous weapon, carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.

Michigan State Police redacted information about the victim’s race from the misconduct report, but a state lawmaker who represents Lansing said in a statement on Friday that the dash camera footage of an “unarmed Black man being mauled by a police dog for nearly four minutes” was unconscionable.

“This is a blatant abuse of power and can only be described as torture,” said the lawmaker, Representative Sarah Anthony, a Democrat. “This incident, and every one we’ve witnessed liked it, is heartbreaking and infuriating.”

Mr. O’Keefe, the trooper’s lawyer, said that race did not play a factor in the encounter. The driver and the passenger were being watched by police officers “not because they were Black, but because they were violent,” he said.

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