Courts
Jonathan Miano, The Times

HAMMOND — A federal judge has refused to declare the Porter County Sheriff's Department has unconstitutional police dog practices that violate civil rights.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano will allow a Portage man's lawsuit against three county police officers to continue to trial on allegations they failed to stop a police dog from biting him after his capture.

Elizabeth A. Knight, an attorney representing the police, declined to comment. Lloyd P. Mullen, an attorney representing Jeremiah Stone, couldn't be reached Friday afternoon for comment.

Stone filed suit in 2014 for damages against former Sheriff David Lain, officers Brian Gill, Matthew Boone and Meredith Brockman and the whole sheriff's department.

Court documents state Brockman stopped a car in which Stone was traveling in the early morning hours of Aug. 15, 2012, for a traffic violation and Stone ran away because he was on probation for an earlier violation and feared he would be jailed.

Officers chased Stone through a mobile home park. Gill released his police dog when Stone refused to stop.

Stone's suit alleges Stone "was viciously bitten and grievously injured by a police dog named Dolar without the police having probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that (Stone) posed an immediate or any threat of death or serious bodily injury, or otherwise posed a threat justifying the use of such force."

The judge stated police believed Stone was dangerous, they didn't know if he was armed and was fleeing through a residential area. He stated Gill only used the dog to apprehend the suspect as a last resort.

The judge stated two witnesses to the apprehension said officers surrounded Stone who was lying face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. One said, "... and the dog was tearing that guy up" and chewing on him for about five minutes, but Gill didn't pull the dog off until he noticed one of the witnesses watching.

The judge ruled there is enough evidence for a reasonable jury to decide whether the three officers allowed the police dog to attack Stone after he was was subdued.

Stone also wanted the court to "enjoin the illegal use of public funds to promote and implement these unconstitutional policies and practices, as well as damages on his behalf."

The lawsuit said police dogs should only be used to locate a suspect, at which point the dog should be withdrawn and individual officers should apprehend the suspect.

The judge said there is evidence the officers have received significant training and no evidence the sheriff or anyone else in a policy-making capacity made decisions that resulted in unconstitutional violations against Stone.

"At best, Stone has alleged an isolated incident of misconduct by Officer Gill and an isolated incident of failure to intervene by Officers Brockman and Boone," according to the judge.  

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Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.