The family of a Black man mauled to death by a police dog in 2018 has successfully subpoenaed the bodycam footage of the incident, according to new filings in an ongoing lawsuit. The Montgomery Police Department had previously refused to confirm that footage of the incident existed.
Joseph Lee Pettaway, 51, was at a house owned by his 87-year-old mother in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 8, 2018. He had been caring for her, helping her fix up the home, and had a key and permission to sleep there.
Someone called 911 overnight that Sunday and reported that the vacant home was being burglarized, although it was really Pettaway entering his mother’s house. Police K-9 handler Nicholas Barber and his dog Niko arrived on the scene to search the premises. Niko ran inside and found Pettaway, lunged at him, and clamped down on the man’s body.
Barber stood by and failed to remove the dog from Pettaway for almost two minutes, according to court documents. During that time, Niko tore an artery in Pettaway’s groin. He ultimately bled out and died.
“His flesh was all on the ground that morning,” Pettaway’s sister Yvonne Pettaway-Frazier said to the Montgomery Advertiser.
“Despite Mr. Pettaway’s obvious and profuse bleeding and his apparently going into shock, no policeman examines or evaluates [Pettaway’s] wound and no policeman administers any of the most basic, essential, obvious and immediately required care to stem or reduce his bleeding,” the lawsuit documents say.
“F-ck yeah,” Barber replied when another officer asked if Pettaway “got a bite.”
Pettaway eventually was removed from the home by officers who laid him down on the pavement and waited for EMS to arrive.
The officers allegedly stood by joking and taking pictures of Pettaway as he bled out. There had been no indication that he was armed or attempting to flee.
Pettaway’s mother, Lizzie Mae Pettaway, also spoke about her son’s brutal death.
“They stood up there and let the dog kill him,” she said. “They need to pay for what they did. If someone had killed the dog, they’d have made them pay for it. They stand out there and hold a conversation after letting the dog chew him like a piece of meat, watching him bleed to death.”
The family is now fighting the “confidential” designation of the footage and wants it to be released to the public, but the city is fighting to keep the video under wraps, saying it would create “annoyance, embarrassment” for the officers involved and spark “civil unrest.”
The matter will be addressed at a hearing sometime this month.