A man arrested a year ago in Cookeville, Tennessee has filed suit against the city and some of its police officers for the personal injuries he sustained from the force used against him, including being bitten by trained dog Melo.
Since the arrest, Melo has been removed from service and placed in the custody of another trainer in another state in a Cookeville Police Department action unrelated to the current suit.
In the incident that saw the dog removed from service, it escaped from Officer Chase Mathis, its handler, and attacked an innocent man who was simply taking out trash. No suit was filed in that incident, but the city is currently paying the victim’s medical expenses.
In the current suit, filed in the Circuit Court of Putnam County, Tennessee, 45-year-old Algood, Tennessee resident Harold Lee Matheney seeks damages in excess of $300,000 from each of the seven defendants named in the case: the City of Cookeville, Police Chief Bob Terry, Officer Chase Mathis, Officer Anthony Reep, Officer Josh Ward, and two officers only identified as “John Doe 1” and “John Doe 2.”
On July 17, 2007, Matheney was arrested when police officers responded to a call at Brookside Trailer Park at approximately 9:30 p.m. The park’s manager reported “prowlers going through vehicles.” Two suspects were quickly apprehended by the police, who spotted another running from the scene and driving off in a pickup truck. According to police reports, as the truck fled the park, it nearly struck Officer Michael Herrick.
A description of the vehicle was sent out over police radio and Mathis spotted a truck that matched the description and attempted to stop it. He recognized the driver as Harold Matheney. The truck sped off with Mathis in pursuit before it crashed.
According to police reports, the driver left the truck and fled into a junk yard. Mathis’ official report says that he deployed K9 Melo and not long after heard “a voice yelling.” He said that he ran in that direction and saw the dog engaged with Matheney’s left leg. Matheney was attempting to push Melo away and yelling for Mathis to get it off. He said that he took Mathis to the ground and tried to get his arm behind his back in order to handcuff him, but he continued to resist.
Mathis said that he then grabbed Melo and commanded him to release Matheney as Ward, Reep, and another officer arrived. He said they wrestled with Matheney as he continued resisting, before Reep tasered him.
Mathis said the officers then arrested Matheney and called for an ambulance to transport him to the hospital for treatment. They later booked him on charges of DUI, driving on a revoked license, evading arrest, and reckless endangerment.
According to Matheney’s suit, Melo attacked him “viciously” for a period of approximately a minute and a half as he called for someone to remove the dog and claims Ward struck him with his knees while he was being tasered by Reep.
According to the suit, Matheney required treatment for a large leg wound and two inch lacerations on the top of his head.
The suit alleges assault, batter, excessive force, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and outrageous conduct on the part of the officers.
The suit also claims negligence on the part of the city for failure to train and/or supervise officers or training and/or supervising them in a negligent manner.