Court records show the 33-year-old trooper was arraigned Friday and released from jail after posting a $5,000 bond. He faces up to four years in prison on the charge of felonious assault, which is tantamount to assault with a deadly weapon.
»LAST WEEK: State trooper kicked, dragged Black man who died in custody
Although Michigan State Police redacted the victim’s race in a misconduct report, a state lawmaker from Lansing called the episode of an “unarmed Black man being mauled by a police dog for nearly four minutes” appalling.
“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.”
»AJC IN DEPTH: Police unions brace for fight as calls grow to ‘defund’ law enforcement
Patrick O’Keefe, Surbrook’s attorney, said the officer was justified in allowing the K-9 to stay on the man, and that footage did not provide a complete understanding of the circumstances that led to the confrontation.
The incident happened after a high-speed chase in Lansing, Michigan, on the night of Nov. 13. Video of the incident was just released to the public last week.
The suspect was traveling with another male passenger in an SUV that fled as officers tried to pull them over.
Their vehicle eventually crashed into a tree, and by the time officers caught up, the driver was out of the car and lying on the ground. Next, the dash cam video shows Surbrook commanding the German Shepherd to seize the suspect.
The video shows the driver pleading with the officer to call off the dog, which appeared to bite him several times.
“Please, sir, he’s on my face,” the man yelled, according to The New York Times. Surbrook replied, “I don’t care.”
The attack continued unabated for several minutes, with the man screaming for mercy.
“Please, sir,” he said. “Please, sir. Please, I’m begging you, sir. Please, sir. Please.”
But Surbrook can be heard on the video encouraging the German Shepherd to keep up the attack.
“Stay on him,” he said, according to reports. “Good boy.”
O’Keefe, Surbrook’s attorney, said race did not play a factor in the encounter.
The driver and the passenger were being watched by police officers “not because they were Black but because they were violent,” he said, adding that the driver was a parolee from Oregon and that his passenger was on probation in Michigan.
“I believe that one of the officers may have seen the passenger get into the car with a gun,” O’Keefe said. “The suspects reached speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone.”
O’Keefe also defended the officer’s actions during the dog attack as occurring in the heat of the moment.
“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.”
Other officers at the scene said they confiscated a handgun from the passenger, who was handcuffed for nearly two minutes before the dog was finally wrested away.
The driver had to be hospitalized for a hip injury sustained in the crash, and he was also treated for bite wounds to his arm, torso and neck, according to the Times, citing an investigation by the Michigan State Police. The man told investigators that he also suffered bites on his head, genitals, shoulder blade and thighs.
Photos were taken of the man’s injuries and submitted to authorities.
Surbrook joined the Michigan State Police in 2012 and became a K-9 handler in 2017, according to the Times.
In a statement Friday, Col. Joseph Gasper, the director of the Michigan State Police, called Surbrook’s actions inconsistent with standards of professional conduct for troopers.
Under the canine policy of the Michigan State Police, dogs should be used to subdue felony suspects only when the circumstances present an imminent danger to law enforcement personnel, the Times reported.
“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,” Gasper said. “This makes Trooper Surbrook’s disregard of the driver’s pleas for help totally unacceptable.”
Information provided by The New York Times was used to supplement this report.