A man with a 7-inch kitchen knife stabbed a San Diego Police dog during an arrest at an Encanto home Monday morning — an attack that came shortly after officers had shot the man using bean-bag rounds.
The 22-year-old man was struck four times with bean bags during the encounter, police Lt. Charles Lara told reporters.
Police said the dog, a Belgian Malinois named Dexter who has been with the San Diego Police Department for a year and a half, underwent surgery and is expected to recover.
The incident began about 8:30 a.m. when police received a call about a woman who was having difficulty controlling her adult son at the home, Lara said.
An officer arrived to find the woman sweeping up broken glass from a picture frame. She told the officer that her son said he was “going to fight the police” if they arrived, Lara said.
The son then came to the door holding what looked like a butcher’s knife, Lara said. Officers repeatedly told him to drop the weapon. He refused, and police fired bean bags at the man.
Although he was struck, the rounds “had a negligible effect on him,” Lara said.
Officers then released the dog, which bit the man on his left arm. During the struggle, the man stabbed Dexter in the torso.
Officer Larry Adair of the K-9 unit said Dexter suffered a broken rib and ruptured spleen. He underwent surgery at an emergency veterinary facility and was in stable condition Monday afternoon.
Adair said Dexter is expected to recover and return to duty. K-9 personnel will slowly introduce him to “similar stimuli” to see how he reacts as part of recovery efforts.
Dexter’s handler, whose name was not released, was not hurt.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to see your partner, your friend, your pal, your best friend, stabbed — wounded,” said Adair, whose own police dog has been hurt in the line of duty.
He said it is not an easy decision to release a canine, but one that at times is necessary to protect the public.
“It’s awful because we spend our time with these dogs,” Adair said. “They come home with us; they live with us. We take care of them … but ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s a police service dog and that dog’s job is to help preserve human life. We know that as handlers. It’s very difficult to send them into harm’s way, but that is the job.”
Lara echoed similar sentiments, saying, “We obviously never want to use any kind of force to take a person into custody.”
He continued: “This gentleman gave no indication that he was going to surrender, continued to be belligerent, [and was] armed with a knife.”
After the man was taken into custody, police had to use restraints “because he was not compliant and banging his head inside the police vehicle,” Lara said.
The man, who was taken to a hospital, could be charged with assaulting a police dog, displaying a weapon at an officer in a threatening manner and resisting arrest. Authorities also were looking at helping his mother obtain a protective order.
Formed in 1984, San Diego police’s K-9 unit, with 33 teams, is one of the largest in the country.
Figueroa and Davidson write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.