You might think that a police officer would face charges for using his cruiser to T-bone a suspect's car, then pushing his trained attack dog into the driver's window while he raises his arms to give himself up. You might think that.
But Wilmington (N.C.) Police Officer Stafford Brister was cleared of any wrongdoing yesterday for his role in a harrowing Halloween incident that left motorist Johnnie Williams in need of stitches on his face and shoulders—and unlikely to ever want to be near a dog again.
Williams, a convicted felon, blew through a DWI checkpoint in Wilmington on Halloween night and led police on a street chase before Brister hit Williams' driver-side door head-on with his cruiser. As you can see from the video below, first aired on WECT-TV, a disoriented Williams raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. That's when Brister picked his K9 unit up and dropped the dog into Williams' lap.
The ensuing 30 seconds may very well have been the longest ones of Williams' life, as Kass the dog—possibly a Rottweiler mix, judging from the video—savagely pulled on the flesh of his face and upper body. Other police officers needed to break out the car's passenger side window and yank open the locked door before they could pull the dog off Williams, who was still trying to raise his arms in submission.
Brister was put on leave with pay, and a grand jury was convened to consider charges against him. He faced only a misdemeanor count of assault because, according to the local StarNews, "case law has established 'a properly trained police dog is not a deadly weapon.'"
The 15 jurors decided not to charge Brister yesterday. A separate grand jury, however, brought the heavily lacerated Williams up "on charges including assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, being a habitual felon and traffic violations."