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Body cam footage shows police dog biting unarmed Black man

“The video is clear,” a civil rights attorney said. “These men aren’t protecting the public or enforcing the law. They’re attacking an unarmed Black man for no reason and they’re enjoying it.”

Body camera footage shows Sheffield police sicking a police dog on an unarmed Black man. Wukela Communications

Newly released body camera footage depicts officers from the Sheffield Police Department (SPD) and Colbert County Sheriff’s office, forcefully arresting and commanding a police dog to bite an unarmed Black man in Alabama on June 17, 2021.

The first video shows Marvin Long standing beside a police cruiser as officers walk up after completing a prior arrest. One of the officers notices Long and says he can move away from the vehicle or be charged with obstruction. Long complies and mutters an obscenity with another officer telling Long to, “kick rocks m*therf***er”.

However, instead of leaving Long alone the officers followed him back to his home without a warrant or probable cause. The next video footage then shows Long standing on his porch telling the officers to leave while they ask if the property is his. Long does not answer, which is his constitutional right, and begins to walk inside but three officers jump on the porch and begin to aggressively wrestle Long to the ground.

Once on the ground one officer is heard saying, “you must think we’re f***ing stupid,” and begins to frisk Long unlawfully without probable cause or Long’s consent. Long is heard screaming, “help!, help!,” while a K-9 is brought out and ordered to bite Long as the handler says, “bite him!, bite him!, get him!, good!” The officers can be heard telling Long to stop resisting despite being bitten by a police dog.

Officers finally arrested and charged Long with Obstruction of Justice and Resisting Arrest. The obstruction charge has already been dropped but Long is set to appear in court on June 6 for the resisting arrest charge. Long will be represented by two civil rights attorneys, Harry Daniels and Rodrick Van Daniel.

“How can you charge a man with Resisting Arrest when there wasn’t a lawful arrest in the first place?” Van Daniel asked in a press release. “For two years, they’ve done everything they can to keep this video from coming out. Now it’s out and the people can see the truth with their own eyes.”

Daniels and Van Daniel said that the arrest against Long was unlawful because he was on his own private property and did not have to speak to the officers.

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There were several officers involved from the video footage but only two have been identified over two years later. The officers identified were Lt. Max Dotson and Sgt. Nick Risner, the K-9 officer, with SPD. In Oct. 2021, Risner and Dotson were both shot responding to a reported incident, with Risner succumbing to his injuries later on.

Risner’s death was mourned by SPD and Chief of Police Rick Terry. However, Terry was likely aware of Risner sicking the dog on Long just four months prior according to Daniels. Daniels said Terry and Sheriff Eric Balentine of the Colbert County Sheriff’s Office saw the footage.

According to Daniels, Long endured physical and emotional damages resulting from the incident but could not be specific due to ongoing litigation. Daniels told APR that they were getting the Department of Justice involved and that Dotson or Risner were never charged or arrested because their conduct was condoned by their superiors. 

“It (the officer’s actions) was condoned by the authorities of that city,” Daniels said. “That’s why we’re seeking redress to the Department of Justice because when you have an act so egregious as this at minimum something should have taken place for termination for those officers involved. But they chose to turn a blind eye to it and condone it.”

It is unclear if Bryce Graham Jr., District Attorney of Colbert County at the time of Long’s incident, saw the footage and proceeded to not charge the officers. 

According to a report by WAFF Dotson was arrested Mar. 29 for assaulting another Black man in Florence while off duty in December. Demarcus Key alleges that Dotson hit him in the face multiple times causing bruising and also pointed a gun at him. Dotson was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, menacing, and harassment.

Terry said that Dotson was placed on administrative leave following the arrest but it is unknown if it is paid or unpaid leave.

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In Alabama, if an individual feared for their life they can potentially argue duress when challenging a charge of resisting arrest.

In December, a federal judge in Montgomery ruled to block the release of body camera footage that showed a police dog biting and killing Joseph Pettaway in 2018, who is also Black. Pettaway bled to death after the dog bit his thigh striking his femoral artery. Just like Long’s case it took two years for the lawyers of Pettaway’s family to obtain the body camera footage.

APR attempted to get a comment from SPD two times. The first attempt an operator with SPD refused to identify themselves and subsequently hung up after. The second time APR left an email for Terry who has yet to respond at this time.

APR also left a voicemail for Balentine who has yet to respond.

Daniels said the video showed the sadistic nature of the officers and that he and Van Daniel felt the footage should be seen to protect the community.

“The video is clear,” Daniels said. “These men aren’t protecting the public or enforcing the law. They’re attacking an unarmed Black man for no reason and they’re enjoying it.”

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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