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Man who bit police dog during arrest sues Glendale, Phoenix

9:56 AM, Apr 18, 2011   |    comments
"The dog bit Erin three to four times, resulting in Erin (Sullivan) having over 40 staples put into his body to heal the wounds," according to the complaint.
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A man who bit back as a Phoenix police dog apprehended him is suing police.

Erin Sullivan, 33, alleges a Phoenix K-9 violated his civil rights and used excessive force to capture him after he ran from officers after a burglary in Glendale more than a year ago. Police said Sullivan bit the dog back, causing injury to the police dog.

Sullivan also said Glendale police, who were investigating the crime, refused to give him insulin to treat his diabetes despite complaints during an interrogation.

Sullivan's attorney, Keith Knowlton, wrote in a lawsuit filed March 18 that his client suffered a diabetic seizure in a Glendale City Jail cell.

The suit names Phoenix and Glendale, as well as four individual officers who responded to the burglary call. The precursors to the suit requested $200,000 in damages from Glendale and $250,000 from Phoenix.

Officials in Glendale and Phoenix said last week they would not comment because they had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Sullivan, who was a Peoria resident, is serving an eight-year sentence at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence in connection with the Glendale burglary. He was convicted last year of criminal trespassing, second-degree burglary and cruelty to animals, which stems from his interaction with Zeke, the Phoenix police dog.

Sullivan was convicted for taking a purse and wallet from a Glendale home.

The man was "observed jumping over several block walls" on March 19, 2010, and Glendale police called on a Phoenix K-9 and helicopter to assist, according to court documents.

Sullivan's lawsuit said he heard orders from the police helicopter, then got on his knees and put his hands behind his head.

Officers on the ground then spotted Sullivan, drew their guns and ordered a K-9 to apprehend him, his attorney said.

"The dog bit Erin three to four times, resulting in Erin having over 40 staples put into his body to heal the wounds," according to the complaint.

Sullivan screamed, asking officers to call the dog off.

"When the dog went for Erin's neck area, Erin felt his life was in danger and hit and bit the dog on its nose," the complaint said.

Phoenix Officer Bryan Welsh called the K-9 off and deployed pepper spray near Sullivan's face.

Later, after Sullivan was treated at a Valley hospital, he told Glendale police Detective Matthew Lowe that he had not had insulin that day. He asked to call his mother to get some. Lowe did not allow it and Sullivan later had a diabetic seizure, according to the complaint.

Knowlton, Sullivan's attorney, said police acted with reckless disregard for Sullivan's health and used excessive force when they arrested him.

"If people obey instructions, other than cuffing them and putting them in the car, there shouldn't be any use of force other than that," the Tempe-based attorney said.

Police outlined a different set of events in court documents and police reports.

A Phoenix police report said members of the Air Support Unit flying overhead found Sullivan hiding in a backyard and directed other officers toward him.

Welsh announced his dog's presence when he arrived.

The report said Zeke found Sullivan, bit him on the left shoulder and partially drug him from the spot where he was hiding.

"Sullivan punched Zeke in the face then bit Zeke on his muzzle. Zeke then repositioned his bite to Sullivan's upper left arm. Sullivan pulled Zeke's face toward his and bit Zeke over his right eye," according to the report.

Welsh then used pepper spray and the dog pulled Sullivan out from under his hiding place.

"Erin caused a laceration above the K-9's eye, which required medical attention," police later wrote in a probable-cause statement filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sullivan was taken to Glendale City Jail after he was treated for his wounds.

There, police said, Sullivan demanded a cigarette and a call to his mother in exchange for information. Sullivan's request for insulin and reported seizure were not mentioned in court filings.

"Detectives ended the interview with (Sullivan) as a result of his repetitive lying and unwillingness to be cooperative," the police court filings said.

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