A 28-year-old Baytown man suffered lacerations and scratches from a German shepherd police dog after he allegedly ran a red light.
Now the man’s attorney and community advocates are calling for changes at the Baytown Police Department and a civil rights investigation by the Harris County District Attorney.
Police said Benjamin Benfer ran a red light on Feb. 14 and resisted arrest after an officer pulled him over at a nearby apartment complex.
That’s when Benfer and his girlfriend got out of the car and walked away, according to Baytown police.
Benfer then allegedly resisted arrest when he “broke the officer’s grip by turning away, which twisted the officer’s wrist and caused him pain,” according to the police report.
That’s when Benfer’s girlfriend, Valerie Wilson, pulled at the officer’s vest and belt from behind, Baytown police said. The officer, identified by Benfer’s attorney as Barry Calvert, arrested the girlfriend and called his K9 to stop Benfer, according to police.
Video posted on social media by a neighbor shows Benfer screaming in pain as the dog tears at his arm and saying, “your dog is eating me!”
The officer shouts at Benfer to put his hands behind his back, which he finally does.
The K9 keeps biting Benfer as the officer is handcuffing him.
Benfer’s attorney, Randall Kallinen, said at a news conference that the officer “just let this dog keep on biting and biting and biting. There was no call for it. That’s excessive force.”
Instead of taking him to a hospital right away, Kallinen said, officers first booked Benfer into the city jail for resisting arrest and charged him with interference with public duties.
Police said paramedics treated Benfer at the scene.
Former Harris County Sheriff’s sergeant and president of the Houston Peace and Justice Center Jeff Reese criticized the officer’s response, saying there was no reason to use a K9 against someone who allegedly committed a class C misdemeanor.
“What’s the worst that could have happened in this case? He got out of his car and went in his home?” he asked. “And so now the … stop light has still been run. Who’s benefiting from this?”
He said the police department has to do a better job training its officers.
A spokesman for the department said BPD has not received an official complaint but that the patrol commander is reviewing the use of force in the incident.
The Baytown Police Department has previously made headlines with the shooting death of Pamela Turner in May 2019, and with the violent arrest of two young men for offensive language at a gas station last June.
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