A Michigan police officer is facing felony charges after he restrained a man with a K-9 during for several minutes during November arrest, leaving the man with a broken hip.
Michigan State Police Trooper Parker Surbrook, 33, was arraigned March 5 in Ingram County on one count of felonious assault for his on-duty use of a police dog to restrain a Black man for nearly four minutes as he begged to be released from the animal. Surbrook is on unpaid suspension pending the criminal proceedings.
“This is a blatant abuse of power and can only be described as torture,” said Democratic Rep. Sarah Anthony in a statement Friday. “This incident, and every one we’ve witnessed like it, is heartbreaking and infuriating.”
The Nov. 13 arrest happened after in Lansing after Surbrook arrived on the scene with an undercover to stop a driver who had just fled the scene of traffic stop and crashed his vehicle into a tree. The driver was believed to be armed at the time, Michigan Live reported.
An in-car police camera captured the events of the arrest.
Surbrook, a K-9 handler since 2017, set the dog on the driver as he exited the vehicle and allowed the dog to maul and restrain the man for three and a half minutes.
“Stay on the ground motherf-cker!” Surbrook shouted as the dog bit the man. “Don’t move!”
“OK, sir,” the unarmed man replied from against the ground.
“Stay on him!” Surbrook repeated, “Good boy.”
Please sir,” the man can be heard saying. “I’m not moving.” When the man told Surbrook the dog was on his face, the trooper replied, “I don’t care.”
“Please, sir. Please, sir. Please I’m begging you, sir. Please. Please, sir. Please,” the man repeated.
After backup arrived nearly four minutes later, the K-9 was removed from the man. The man told the backup officers he could not stand and a Michigan State Police investigation later indicated that his hip was broken.
The man 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.
The victim remains unidentified and was not charged with a crime.
Surbrook was initially pulled from service while supervisors reviewed his report, but was then allowed to return. After supervisors reviewed footage of the arrest, Surbrook was removed again on Dec. 8. He was also kicked off the department’s canine unit.
A passenger in the vehicle had a gun and was arrested by Surbrook and the other officer. Although it is normal not to remove a K-9 from a suspect until other suspects on the scene are in custody, Surbrook didn’t remove from the dog from the passenger for one minute and 50 seconds after the other suspect was in custody, according to an investigation report.
“While the unfortunate reality for police officers is that use of force is sometimes a necessary action to ensure the protection of themselves or others, care and concern for human life should always be at the forefront of any police officer’s actions,” said MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper. “This makes Trooper Surbrook’s disregard of the driver’s pleas for help totally unacceptable.”
The incident isn’t the first recent instance of an officer’s handling of a K-9 resulting in disastrous consequences for an African-American man.
In 2018, a 51-year-old Black man named Joseph Lee Pettaway was mauled to death by a police dog in Montgomery, Alabama. Someone called 911 to report a person entering a vacant house, concerned it may have been a burglar, but it was really Pettaway entering his elderly mother’s home.
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. Niko tore an artery in Pettaway’s groin, and he ultimately bled out and died.
Surbrook was released from jail Friday after posting $5,000 bond and faces up to four years in prison.
His attorney, Patrick O’Keefe, said his client’s actions have nothing to do with race, and questioned the severity of the felony charge. “Just because he made an insensitive comment here or there doesn’t make him guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon,” he said. “We question whether a dog can actually be a dangerous weapon.”