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Black man bitten by police dog sues city and officers involved

Attorneys representing Long have filed a federal lawsuit against the officers involved and the City of Sheffield, Alabama. 

Body camera footage shows Sheffield police sicking a police dog on an unarmed Black man. Wukela Communications
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In June 2021, Marvin Long was bitten by a police dog during an incident with officers in Alabama. On Monday, attorneys representing Long revealed they filed a federal lawsuit against the officers involved and the City of Sheffield, Alabama. 

The officers that participated in the event were from the Sheffield Police Department and Colbert County Sheriff’s Office. 

Long is represented by civil rights attorneys Harry Daniels and Roderick Van Daniel.

In May, APR reported on the release of the body camera footage showing the incident between Long and officers. The footage depicts Long, who was unarmed, talking to officers as they arrest other individuals. Long and one of the officers exchange obscenities and Long walks back to his property but officers follow him.

Long then tells officers to leave the property but officers asked him who the home belonged to. Long does not answer and attempts to walk inside his home but is forcefully tackled to the ground by officers. Once Long is on the ground Sgt. Nick Risner bring his K-9 and is heard ordering the dog to, “bite him!, bite him!, get him!, good!”

If the dog bit a crucial artery in Long’s leg, he could have died. This is what happened to Joseph Pettaway in Montgomery on July 8, 2018. K-9 handler Nicholas Barber released a police dog to bite Pettaway resulting in the dog striking his femoral artery and causing him to bleed out.

“It’s sickening,” Daniels said. “We expect to see this kind of brutality on old news reels or hear stories about it from our parents or grandparents. But here it is, in 2023. Apparently not much has changed in Alabama in 60 years.”

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Officers then arrested Long and charged him with Obstruction and Resisting Arrest. The obstruction charge was later dropped. 

The SPD officers named in the lawsuit are Dotson, Brett Evans and Darien Fountain. CCSO deputies included in the lawsuit are Daniel Cruise, Tommy Mills, Bradley Skipworth, Curtis Burns, John Harkins, Tim Vanderford and Tyler Evans. 

Risner is not named in the lawsuit because he died in Oct. 2021, after getting shot responding to a reported incident. Dotson responded with Risner and was also shot but survived. Risner was awarded the 2022 Alabama Legislative Law Enforcement Medal of Honor posthumously and was praised by lawmakers prior to the release of the body cam footage.

In March, Dotson was charged with reckless endangerment, menacing, third-degree assault and harassment after assaulting a Black Florence man and threatening him with a gun while off-duty.

According to the lawsuit, Long was bitten on his left leg by the dog which he previously had surgery on. It also states that Long has suffered a number of injuries due to officers not intervening to stop the incident including loss of constitutional and federal rights, pain and physical injuries and a litany of psychological trauma. 

“These officers weren’t satisfied with violating Mr. Long’s civil rights and siccing their police dog on him while he was unarmed, defenseless and crying for help,” Van Daniel said. They made up circumstances so they could charge him with a crime. If we let criminal cops assault an innocent man and then charge him for the crime, none of us are safe.”

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

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