Man Bites Dog, Dog Bites Man, Man Sues Cops

As other news outlets are reporting on dogs biting people this morning (yawn), New Times found a story about a guy who fought back against the ferocious fangs of a police pooch by biting back (yes, an actual man bites dog story, as cliche as it may sound) and now he's suing the Phoenix and Glendale police departments.

On March 19, 2010, Erin Sullivan broke into a Glendale home, his lawyer, Keith Knowlton tells New Times. When Sullivan realized the homeowner was in the house, he fled on foot, but police were already closing in on the would-be burglar.

Outside of the home, an officer had Sullivan at gunpoint and instructed him to stop running, but he continued to flee -- and the officer didn't shoot.

Sullivan continued to run until he found a place to hide -- all as police helicopters had been deployed to aid in his capture. 

"Erin found a hiding spot under a little dog house he pulled over himself," the complaint, first reported by Courthouse News states. "He heard officers walk by him. He got out of the dog house and moved about twenty feet when he heard the helicopter and heard instruction to 'freeze.'""

According to his attorney, Sullivan knew the jig was up, and got on his knees and put his hands on his head.

That's when Sullivan met Officer Bryan Welsh -- and his dog -- who "came around the corner and appeared to be surprised to see Erin."

Sullivan says he was "told to move backwards 'slowly' from the object he was kneeling in front of. As he began to move backwards on his knees as instructed, Officer Welsh let the dog loose."

Sullivan says the dog bit him two or three times -- causing injuries that required about 40 staples to seal the wounds -- before he decided to bite back.

"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 report states.

After Sullivan bit the dog, the officers called it off -- and then blasted him with some pepper spray, which, his lawyer claims, was after he'd already surrendered and no longer posed a threat.

Following his arrest, Sullivan was taken to a Glendale City Jail, where he claims he told officers he was diabetic and needed insulin. The officers, Sullivan's lawyer claims, ignored his request and he had a seizure.

Sullivan, who is currently prison-bound for the burglary, seeks punitive damages for negligence, excessive force, and constitutional violations. The Cities of Phoenix and Glendale, Officer Welsh, and three other police officers are named in the suit.

"They basically use dogs and Tasers on people all the time, even after they've surrendered" Knowlton tells New Times. "That's what this is about."

Maybe, but it's also about a guy who bit a dog, which is much more entertaining.

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James King
Contact: James King