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Cops, K-9 Attack Sleepwalking Man in PJs

(CN) - For Christopher Demski, the night of Oct. 10, 2013, began like many other nights: He couldn't sleep.

Like millions of Americans, Demski, 32, suffers from insomnia. So like millions of Americans, he popped a prescribed Ambien and called it a night.

But what happened next became a nightmare, according to a civil rights complaint Demski filed this month in Connecticut state court.

Around midnight, Demski began sleepwalking - a potential side effect of Ambien. He left the home he shares with his wife and four young children in just his pajamas, and walked toward his mother and stepfather's home around the corner.

His parents' neighbors across the street saw Demski and, noticing that he was acting strangely, called police to request an ambulance because they believed he needed medical attention. In the meantime, Demski continued walking toward his parents' house - but entered the nearly identical home of their next door neighbor instead.

Fearing an intruder, that neighbor also called police. But on further investigation he recognized Demski, whom he'd known since Demski was a child.

Police arrived in full force at the neighbor's home and set up a barricade. The neighbor told officers that he knew Demski, that he had not been aggressive or threatening, and that he needed an ambulance.

But instead of calling an ambulance, the officers ordered Demski to the ground. He complied, but they shoved him face-first into the ground.

Then defendant Sergeant James Lefebvre and other defendant Enfield police officers fired their Tasers, Demski says in his complaint. The officers tased him at least 10 times, and then defendant Brendan Devine and others pinned him to the neighbor's front porch and handcuffed him.

Demski says that although he was now completely restrained, the Enfield police officers continued tasing him, and they kicked and hit him with their batons as well. And then, defendant officer Christopher Dufresne brought his K-9 to the front porch and instructed the dog to bark in Demski's face, according to the complaint.

"Sometime thereafter, as Demski's feet were hanging off the edge of the landing, defendant Dufresne led the police K-9 to Demski's feet and commanded the dog to bite Demski in the area of his right Achilles tendon while Demski, who had previous surgery to repair the Achilles tendon, was still being tased and beaten, as aforesaid, by multiple police officers," Demski says in his complaint.

"At the command of Dufresne and/or Officer John Doe, the police K-9 viciously bit and clenched onto Demski's right foot and ankle area for at least several minutes, while Demski was subdued and handcuffed, helpless and bleeding profusely and in obvious excruciating pain and distress," the complaint states.

None of the officers did anything to stop the attack, Demski says, adding that at one point he begged police to stop tasing him because he had previously suffered a punctured lung and the pain was unbearable.

Even the neighbors who had gathered screamed at police to stop, according to the complaint. Eventually, officers placed a torn and bleeding Demski into the back of a patrol car.

Officers eventually called an ambulance, which arrived "30 to 45 minutes later," according to the complaint. And they waited another 20 minutes before allowing medics to treat Demski.

But Demski says the nightmare continued after he was treated at the hospital, released prematurely and taken to the police station. In the morning, officers led him the limping man to the booking area and charged him with resisting arrest, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief and disturbing the peace.

Demski says he had no criminal record prior to the incident. Enfield police finally released Demski at 5:30 p.m., with a host of traumatic injuries.

"As a direct result of the actions and conduct of defendants, Demski suffered numerous physical injuries and sequelae, some or all of which are permanent in nature, including but not limited to scarring and disfigurement, debilitating damage to his right Achilles tendon which cannot be surgically repaired, nearly biting through his tongue, a broken right toe, serious injuries and scars to his right hand and wrist, persistent acute pain in his extremities, a cracked molar, infections in his right leg and ankle requiring postsurgical intervention, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy," Demski says in his complaint.

Demski is suing the Enfield Police Department for excessive force, deadly force, negligent conduct, reckless and willful conduct, assault and battery, failure to intervene, failure to render medical assistance, false arrest and malicious prosecution, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

He is also suing the town of Enfield for employer liability, and Enfield and Dufresne under the Connecticut dog bite law, and Police Chief Carl Sferazza for not properly training and controlling his officers.

Demski seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

He is represented by David Jaffe of the firm Brown, Paindiris & Scott in Hartford, Conn.

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