A U.S. magistrate has ruled that four Salt Lake County deputies did not use excessive force when they allowed a police dog to attack a man they believed to be armed and eluding arrest.
David Lee Hewitt sued Salt Lake County deputies Nick Roberts, Roy Orton, Rick Suarez and John Wood for dog bites he received during his arrest on July 20, 1986. Police dog Kilo attacked Hewitt twice during his arrest. Hewitt claimed the use of the dog was excessive. He also accused the officers of beating him on the head during his arrest.But U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce supported the use of the dog, calling it preferable to the officers fighting the suspect themselves. He said Hewitt's booking and post arrest photos showed no evidence of beating. Hewitt's injuries included abrasions and a puncture wound on the calf from the dog's attack.
According to Boyce's memoranda, Salt Lake County deputies attempted to arrest Hewitt at his ex-wife's apartment on July 20 because warrants had been issued for his arrest and he had fled from officers the previous day.
When Hewitt learned the deputies were at the door, he fled his ex-wife's apartment through her bedroom window and hid in the washroom of a nearby apartment. Because Hewitt had been carrying a gun when officers attempted to arrest him the day before and was known to "always have firearms," the deputies called canine units to the scene.
The deputies repeatedly ordered Hewitt to surrender and threatened to release the dogs if he did not. Hewitt did not surrender and deputies sent Kilo into the washroom. Kilo grabbed Hewitt by the leg and dragged him from the washroom.
Hewitt came out of the room striking at the dog and officers, the ruling said. It said the officers called off the dog and Hewitt began fighting them. Then Salt Lake County Deputy Roy Orton ordered Kilo to attack, and the dog again grabbed Hewitt's leg, the report said.
Boyce said Kilo was never out of control during the arrest and was fully trained and responsive to his handler's commands.
"The crime was serious and there was a threat to the officers' safety," Boyce ruled. "The employment of a dog in such cases is much preferable to fighting a suspect where human injury can occur."