Lakewood, CO — There is no shortage of stories on The Free Thought Project of police K-9 units being used as vicious weapons that inflict grave injury and even death on unarmed and entirely innocent people. Elderly women, children, and other non-violent individuals have all fallen prey to the horrifying use of police K-9 units over the years. As the following incident illustrates, police are even willing to force a K-9 to attack and nearly kill people—in their sleep.
The Lakewood police department is now the defendant in lawsuit filed by 26-year-old Spencer Erickson after he was attacked in his own bed, and nearly killed by a K-9, as he slept. The K-9, known as Finn, latched on to Erickson's throat as he slept and tore it to shreds.
According to the suit, this K-9 has a history of violence and even attacked a fellow cop, causing that officer to miss work for over a month. Yet the dog was still kept on the force.
The lawsuit names the City of Lakewood and the six officers involved in the incident — Ryan O'Hayre, Edward Baggs, Justin Richards, Kennadee Bleak, Matthew Christensen and John Terrana. According to the lawsuit, on the night of Sept. 21, 2018, the named officers "subjected (Erickson) to a use of force so excessive it nearly killed him."
The reason police were at Erickson's house that night, according to the lawsuit was that officers were called to Erickson’s home about 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2018. His roommate had called 911 to report that Erickson had created a hole in the attic and that he may have drank vodka and smoked marijuana earlier in the day. The horror. She also reported to 911 that Erickson may have had an outstanding warrant.
The roommate “did not allege any violent behavior or threats” by Erickson, the lawsuit said.
There was absolutely no reason for police to respond in the manner that they did. His warrants were for failure to appear on a DUI charge, according to the lawsuit. Clearly a DUI arrest does not justify a tactical SWAT team with a K-9 unit.
Apparently, however, these officers had nothing better to do that night than kick down Erickson's door while he slept and sic their K-9 on him for failure to appear. Erickson's attorney explained that Erickson had no history of violence and was completely asleep when police arrived.
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“For reasons we can’t fathom, other than this is how Lakewood told their officers to respond, they decide to respond in full force. They show up with at least six police officers and a police dog and treat this like a tactical assault,” Frank said. “They had absolutely no justification for that. This dog is trained to attack. This dog’s role is to find someone and bite them as hard as it can to subdue them.”
The lawsuit said the cuts on his neck were 6-7 centimeters long and 5-7.5 centimeters deep, “resulting in exposed and lacerated muscle tissue and an exposed jugular vein.”
Had the cuts been any deeper, Erickson would have died, according to the lawsuit, which referred to the attack as "near murder."
“[The officers] all agreed that they would send K-9 Finn into Mr. Erickson’s apartment and allow him to search for Mr. Erickson without supervision,” the lawsuit said, “knowing that this would cause Mr. Erickson to suffer serious injury when he was bitten by K-9 Finn.”
A year has passed since the attack and Erickson still suffers severe pain and injuries from the attack. He was also diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
“The massive scarring on Mr. Erickson’s neck makes it appear to anyone he meets that he either tried to kill himself or that someone tried to kill him,” the lawsuit said.
Showing how hard the department is working to keep this incident under wraps, when Denver 7 tried to request the police report from them—which they usually email within hours—the department told them to essentially kick rocks.
Lakewood police asked for Denver7 to submit a Colorado Open Records Request, in writing and in person, to receive the report in 7-10 business days. Typically, police reports are emailed or delivered to media within hours of a request.
Not only are they railroading the press over this incident, but several months after their K-9 nearly killed a man over a failure to appear warrant, the department put a picture of Finn on their Facebook page and bragged that "he got his bad guy!"