Last year, a police officer sicced his K-9 on Sean Davis as he slept in a wooded area in Covington, Kentucky, mauling his arm and causing severe injuries. Officers had mistaken Davis for a different individual who had allegedly violated a protection order and detained him even after he provided police with his ID. Last month, Davis filed a lawsuit against the officer responsible for Davis' mauling, claiming that he was subject to unreasonable force, negligence, and battery.
According to the Covington police incident report, on June 8, 2022, police received a call from a woman who said she believed that her violent ex-boyfriend, whom she had a protection order against, was sleeping in a wooded area near a campsite at which she was staying. When police arrived, they found Sean Davis—not the woman's ex-boyfriend—sleeping in a hammock in the woods. Without warning, a police officer released a K-9 on Davis, which bit his arm and brought him to the ground. While the dog continued to maul Davis' arm, police got on top of Davis.
According to WCPO, a local news station, body camera footage of the incident shows that officers handcuffed Davis and demanded he identify himself. In the footage, Davis repeatedly gives officers his name, social security number, as well as his photo ID, proving that he was not the person in the protection order. Nonetheless, police kept Davis handcuffed for 37 minutes.
"Try to scoot your butt straight over so you don't get blood all over the car," one officer told Davis as he directed him to get inside the police vehicle. "Try to keep that arm off the seat."
Eventually, police took Davis to a local hospital where he was treated and released. Notably, according to WCPO, Covington's police report of the incident did not mention that Davis was attacked by a K-9 or that he was handcuffed.
"Had it not been for the body-worn camera footage, we would not have any idea of the atrocity that occurred there," Anita Washington, Davis' attorney, told WCPO.
The lawsuit says that Davis "was diagnosed with injury of biceps brachii muscle and injury of triceps due to dog bite on his left arm. He was given an opioid for pain relief before undergoing multiple laceration suture repairs. The wounds have not completely healed, and it appears as though the injuries and scarring" are permanent. The suit also says that Davis was "diagnosed with acute stress/PTSD due to nightmares, avoidance of going outside or near dogs, and intrusive thoughts of being attacked."
Davis argues that his mauling was clearly unjustified and that the officer responsible for the K-9 acted with an intent to harm him, or "a conscious disregard to" Davis' rights or safety.
However, in a response to the complaint, the city denied Davis' claims that he was unjustly attacked, arguing, "If the Plaintiff was injured and/or damaged as alleged… his injuries and/or damages were caused solely as a result of his own acts or omissions," and insisting that police actions were justified.
While Davis' ordeal is disturbing, it's unclear whether he will be able to succeed in his lawsuit, as police officers are protected by wide-ranging qualified immunity protections that make it extremely difficult to sue them over civil rights violations—no matter how obvious.
"I think they believed Mr. Davis was expendable and what happened was just a mistake," Washington told WCPO.