A renewed sense of scrutiny, which is well deserved, is being given to police departments across the country recently for use of their police K-9 officers to torture individuals who may not comply fast enough. The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar, and the Invisible Institute examined more than 150 police dog bites nationwide and found numerous instances of their use for pain compliance—often on people who were unarmed and suspected only of minor offenses like traffic violations.
According to the independent investigation, police across the country, from Utah, to Ohio, to Arizona, to Washington use dogs to hurt people in an effort to make them obey. Many of these people are not entirely compliant and tortured by the K-9 anyway and the officers are almost never held accountable.
Police will tie up the investigations for years until they fall out of the public light and the officers are not held accountable — which is exactly what happened in the following incident.
Attorney Joel Robbins, a Phoenix civil-rights attorney in practice for 25 years, could not believe what police and their K9 did to his client after he was accused of assaulting a police officer, “I’ve never heard of them bringing a dog into a holding cell…It just doesn’t make sense.”
Shane McGough and some friends went tubing at the Salt River in 2017. Following a fun day on the river, the friends returned to their vehicle and were involved in a minor traffic accident with an Uber vehicle.
The responding security guards, both off-duty Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies, attempted to search the vehicle belonging to McGough’s friend. McGough objected and reportedly blocked deputy Michael Finney from searching the car which reportedly had a gun laying in the floor board. It’s not illegal to possess a firearm in Arizona and the state has open carry laws allowing guns to be placed anywhere within a vehicle without a crime being committed. Finney escalated the conflict by choking McGough, who was a high school and collegiate wrestler.
An accomplished wrestler, such as McGough, could easily have overpowered both deputies, taken their guns, batons, and tasers from them, and beaten them to a pulp, but there’s no indication from the eyewitness accounts of what happened on scene and the following more controversial encounter at the holding station, the 27-year-old man was anything but compliant.
Choking a wrestler would certainly, and did provoke a response by McGough, who defended himself against an unlawful assault by a police officer. Another officer tackled McGough, and fractured his own leg in the process.
Following the incident the Phoenix New Times’ began investigating. Robbins provided the newspaper with body camera footage of the K9 attack on a handcuffed citizen. In the recording McGough can be heard asking, no less than 30 times, what he did wrong and why he was being arrested. He was handcuffed and escorted from the police squad car and then taken into the holding cell. A U.S. Forestry Service officer then choked McGough, who responded with profanities, again not illegal.
Then, the officers threw the young man on the floor of the jail cell and allowed the police attack dog known as “Shadow” to maul McGough for more than 3 minutes. The attack was all captured on body camera footage.
The incident is difficult to watch.
McGough repeatedly begged officers to remove the dog, and cried out, “I’m complying, sir, I’m complying,” while officers forced the K-9 to bite him.
“I was in so much pain I would have done anything to get that dog off me,” said McGough, now 29 told AL.com
Deputies said that forcing the dog to maul McGough for those three minutes was a method of justifiable force used to get him to submit — a technique, they refer to as “pain compliance.”
McGough’s lawyer, Steve Guy, called the bite “jailhouse justice” for the deputy’s broken leg.
“It was purely punitive,” Guy said, adding that McGough was not resisting the officers but “flinching and moving defensively, trying to protect himself.”
McGough later plead guilty to assault charges, spent six months in jail, and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit while he was imprisoned.
“When you’re subjecting someone to lengthy and continuous pain and maiming, torture is an appropriate word,” said Guy.
The young man who’s now become an apparent victim of brutal police tactics which resemble vengeance, is seeking several million dollars in damages from the unprovoked attack by the police K9 who attacked upon the command of his police handler. McGough is seeking 4 million from MCSO and 2 million from the U.S. Forestry Service for being choked by one of its officers.
Three years after the attack and his lawsuit is still awaiting trial. After the incident McGough lost his job and moved to a very small town to get away from people, he said.
As AL.com reported, McGough still has roughly 25 teeth marks, some numbness and brownish, purple scars. But the emotional toll of the dog bite is heavier, he said: “I don’t even really like to go out. Whenever I see a police officer I’m really scared. I start shaking and hyperventilating.”