Spokane, WA — Spokane Police Department Officer Dan Lesser didn’t actually quit on his own terms. He was either forced to step down or requested to stop being a K-9 handler following a viral video depicting a violent arrest in which Lesser sicced his police K9 attack dog on a man while threatening to kill him.
In February, Lesser located Lucas Ellerman who was “smoking” inside his four-door pickup truck. The officer pinned Ellerman into a snow bank as the fugitive wanted for being a felon in possession of a firearm attempted to flee. After successfully pinning the truck with his cruiser to the snow bank, Lesser got out of his car, broke the driver’s side glass and began screaming at Ellerman promising to kill him.
I’m going to f**king kill you. I’m going to f**king kill you. Don’t f**king move. You’re going to get bit by a f**king dog (inaudible) I’m going to f**king shoot you. I’m going to f**king kill you. Don’t reach. Don’t f**king reach. I’m going to f**king kill you. Don’t reach… I will f**king kill you. Do you understand me? You’re done. Your’e f**king done. He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun on him and he still has…Don’t f**king move…your’e gonna get bit right now. Get the f**k outta here. I’m going to put a bullet in your brain. Get outta here right now. I’m done f**king with you. Get outta here or you’re going to get bit. Get outta here or you’re going to get bit.
Lesser had enough. Even though Ellerman had “feigned” compliance earlier in the police contact, the fugitive was moving from the backseat to the front seat when Lesser released the K9 on Ellerman. The attack dog weapon worked, placing Ellerman in so much pain he actually reached his hands through the window in order for the police to drag him through. All the while the dog was biting Ellerman.
While the officer never followed through with his threats to kill Ellerman, clearly the officer was no longer interested in the surrendering suspect. He, in the eyes of many who watched the video footage, sicced his dog on Ellerman simply because he was frustrated with the young man’s delayed obedience.
Instead of being fired, however, for releasing an attack dog on a surrendering suspect, Lesser was allowed to step down from the K9 patrol unit.
Ellerman was perplexed as to why Lesser didn’t shoot him, indicating he wanted to die and hoped Lesser would have carried out his promises to kill him. When asked by Ellerman why Lesser didn’t shoot him, the cop responded:
I just didn’t feel like killing anybody today. Is that okay?
Outrage likely led to Lesser stepping down from the K-9 unit. Additionally, it was reported a U.S. Marshall likely reported Lesser for the unnecessary use of force. According to the Spokesman-Review, Lesser admitted in the subsequent investigation he’d grown fed up with Ellerman’s delayed obedience. He said in the internal investigation:
I think at that point I’d already made a decision in my mind to already deploy my K-9…Based on all the factors. Based on his active resistance. Based on the crimes. Based on the threats. Everything that I was told, he was armed with a handgun.
Ironically, it was not deploying the K9 that got Lesser into trouble. It was his own promise of violence towards Ellerman. All of the threats of putting a bullet into Ellerman’s head was what got Lesser into trouble. The department frowned upon his word choice and either asked him to step down from the K-9 unit or told him he was done.
Capt. Tom Hendren of the Spokane PD wrote in a statement describing the fact Lesser resigned from the K-9 unit a day after the viscous attack which left Ellerman with an infection.
The result of that meeting on 2-13-19 was that Officer Lesser resigned from the K9 unit, his resignation was accepted and he has since been reassigned to patrol.
Below is that video.