A Washington state man who was attacked by police dog in November even after he surrendered has filed a lawsuit against Michigan State Police and the trooper who allowed the dog to bite him as he writhed on the ground.
“I could not move, I was unarmed, I did not threaten the officers. I have permanent scars from the top of my head to my legs. I truly thought the dog was going to kill me,” 41-year-old Robert Gilliam said in a statement.
Civil rights attorney Maurice Davis announced the filing of the suit against Trooper Parker Surbrook and the State Police on June 1.
The suit comes after 33-year-old Surbrook was charged in March with felonious assault for his on-duty use of a police dog to restrain Gilliam for nearly four minutes as he begged to be released by the K-9.
“My client, a Black man, laid on the ground with a broken hip and begged and pleaded with the officer to call off the dog,” Davis said when announcing the suit, according to Michigan Live. “Trooper Surbrook betrayed his badge and betrayed this citizen with his cruel, racist and reckless behavior. The trooper had a duty to protect and serve. This is not serving or protecting — this officer deserves a punishment, and my client deserves justice.”
On Nov. 13, Surbrook and an undercover officer responded to the scene after the driver of a vehicle fled an attempted traffic stop then crashed into a tree in Lansing. The driver was thought to have a weapon at the time.
Footage captured by a in-car camera shows that when Gilliam exited the vehicle he immediately lay flat on the ground near the vehicle. Surbrook exited the police vehicle and set the dog on Gilliam for nearly four minutes.
“Stay on the ground, motherf-cker!” Surbrook yelled, “Don’t move.”
“I’m not moving,” Gilliam said as the dog continued to bite him. During this time, a passenger in the vehicle was also being restrained.
“Please, sir, sir, I’m not moving, sir,” Gilliam said as Surbrook encouraged the dog to “stay on him.” The K-9 was removed from the man when backup arrived.
A police sergeant concluded in an incident repot that Gilliam was “not displaying physical active resistance.”
Gilliam suffered bite injuries across his body, including his head, left shoulder blade area, left arm bicep and forearm, left side rib area, left and right side of his pelvic bone area, genitals, and the top of the thighs. He was not charged with a crime but received immunity in exchange for his testimony against Surbrook. Gilliam is seeking $1 million, according to the suit.
Surbrook, who had been with the State Police for eight years, and had been a K-9 handler since 2017, is on unpaid suspension pending the criminal charges.
On Friday, the preliminary exam — a hearing to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to go forward with charges — for Surbrook’s criminal case was adjourned while new evidence was examined.
“The dogs stop and start licking my wounds. If the dog knows to stop and lick your wounds, what’s that say about him as an officer as a police officer? What’s that say about him his character?” Gilliam told WXYZ on Friday, June 4. He had been scheduled to testify against Surbrook at the preliminary hearing that same day.
Davis has called for Surbrook’s employment with the police to be immediately terminated, and for the charges against him to be upgraded to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office.
“My client was treated less than human,” Davis said at a press conference about the lawsuit on June 1. “Historically, dogs have been used as a tool for intimidation and control of African Americans since the inception of slavery. As Black people we must stand up and fight for what’s right. We must stand up to racist police officers who abuse their power. We must show them that Black lives matter.”