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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Suspect Can’t Sue Officers Over Police Dog Attack

(CN) - The 11th Circuit granted summary judgment to two deputies accused of using excessive force when a police dog chomped the legs of an armed robbery suspect 31 times.

Robert Crenshaw sued Robert Lister and Emmitt Merritt, a pair of deputies in Charlotte County, Fla., for using excessive force in apprehending him in a wooded area following reported robberies at a Kmart and a Walgreen's drug store.

Crenshaw claimed that he was attempting to surrender when Lister allowed Eddie the dog to start biting him. He also claimed that Merritt failed to stop the attack.

The officers countered that they were crawling through brush to get to Crenshaw when Eddie started biting the suspect. They both said Crenshaw did not give up his hands to be cuffed on Lister's orders.

The district court denied the officers' motion for summary dismissal of the case, ruling that "a reasonable jury could find that the severity of the injuries was excessive in light of the circumstances of the apprehension."

In a per-curiam decision, the Atlanta-based federal appeals court overturned the decision, citing the deputies' qualified immunity.

The judges noted the facts that Crenshaw was believed to be an armed robbery suspect, crashed his vehicle into a patrol car and fled into the dense woods.

"Lister was not required to risk his own life," the judges wrote, "by revealing his position in an unfamiliar wooded area at night to an armed fugitive who, up to that point, had shown anything but an intention of surrendering."

The judges remanded the case to the district court with instructions to grant the officers' motion for summary judgment due to qualified immunity.

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