Man bitten by police dog in arrest files $6 million suit

July 08, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer Staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this story.

An Annapolis man who says he was bitten by a police dog and wrongfully arrested has filed a $6 million suit against the Annapolis Police Department, three of its officers and the city.

Robert E. Joyce accuses the officers, the Police Department and the city of assault, battery and false arrest among other counts after he was bitten in the leg by Charlie, a department police dog, as the officers were attempting to make an arrest at Mr. Joyce's Annapolis apartment complex last Sept. 13.

In the suit, filed yesterday at the Anne Arundel Circuit Court, Mr. Joyce said that he returned home at about 11 that night and was quietly talking to three friends outside the apartment building in the unit block of Marcs Court when two officers approached. Two of the men were drinking beer.

The officers, Joseph E. McGeeney and Joseph McKiernan, were responding to a call for a loud and boisterous craps game at another address some distance from Marc Court but stopped when they saw the four men standing in front of the apartment building, the suit said.

The officers said the men were involved in a party and were too loud, and ordered the two men drinking the beer to pour it out, which they did. But when they ordered one of the men to open two unopened cans and pour out the beer, he refused and began walking back toward the apartment.

Officer McKiernan then allegedly knocked the beer cans from the hands of one of the men and placed him under arrest. While the men were arguing about the legality of the arrest, a crowd began to gather and several more patrol cars arrived.

An officer who arrived with Charlie, a German shepherd, released the dog. The dog bit Mr. Joyce, who was standing closest to the animal, on the leg. The other officers then tackled Mr. Joyce and arrested him, the suit said.

An Annapolis police spokesman said that Mr. Joyce had been ordered to disperse but that he refused and began arguing with the officers. It was at this point that the dog bit Mr. Joyce, police say.

After his arrest, Mr. Joyce was taken to the Anne Arundel Medical Center. According to the suit, in the emergency room, the security guard on duty said, "Charlie got another one!"

Charges of hindering a police officer and resisting arrest were filed against Mr. Joyce, but the state's attorney's office decided not to prosecute. The suit alleges that Officer McGeeney swore out the same charges on March 27, three days after they had been dropped, and served Mr. Joyce with the documents at 12:40 a.m., in a further act of harassment. These charges were again dropped on June 9.

Annapolis police attempted to serve the summons earlier but could not reach him, police said. "We serve summons whenever we can," said Lt. Gary Simpson, a department spokesman. He declined further comment on the case.

Mr. Joyce claims that he has suffered permanent damage to his leg and back, run up costly medical and legal bills, and suffered emotional trauma because of the incident.

Although the suit does not specify discrimination, Mr. Joyce's attorney, Warren D. Stephens, said the incident had racial overtones. The four men at the apartment are black and the officers are white. "It wouldn't have happened in a white neighborhood," he said.

After Mr. Joyce was bitten by the dog, the police pursued the charges against him to keep him from taking legal action, Mr. Stephens said.

"They figured they've got to do something now. If they arrest this guy, he'll go away quietly and not bother anyone," he said. "Well, we didn't go away quietly."

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