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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Legal

Man bit by Spokane police dog reaches $50,000 settlement with city

Footage shows Lucas Ellerman’s arrest and dog-biting incident.
Footage shows Lucas Ellerman’s arrest and dog-biting incident.

The man bit by a police dog in a controversial 2019 incident will be paid $49,900 by the city of Spokane.

Lucas Ellerman filed a lawsuit against the city in April alleging that Officers Scott and Dan Lesser used excessive force in his arrest.

After Ellerman led officers on a chase, body camera footage showed him inside a pickup truck as Dan Lesser repeatedly yells, “I will (expletive) kill you” and warns, “I’m going to put a bullet in your brain.”

Ellerman had initially refused orders to exit the truck and told police he was armed with a pistol but said, “I’m coming,” and “I give up” as Dan Lesser lifted the dog into the truck. The dog bit Ellerman on the leg, leaving an injury that required stitches.

The officers’ methods were scrutinized in a lengthy report released by Spokane Police Ombudsman Bart Logue, who wrote that they endangered themselves and others.

“While it is reasonable for an officer to use more force when they perceive a greater threat, any force that goes beyond the necessary amount needed to effect an arrest could easily be considered excessive, creating liability for the officer, the Department, and the City,” Logue wrote.

Dan Lesser resigned from the K-9 unit and apologized for his use of foul language following the incident and was reassigned to patrol. He was suspended one day without pay for his use of expletives and for failing to activate his body camera, but was not disciplined for his use of the canine.

Following his arrest, Ellerman pleaded guilty to drug, firearm and eluding police charges, and was handed a 70-month sentence at Airway Heights Correctional Center.

According to the lawsuit, Ellerman was treated at the hospital twice the day of his arrest and was later treated for an ongoing infection.

Ellerman’s initial filing sought damages of more than $650,000. The agreement, which releases the city and Lessers of all future claims, was signed on June 15.

The agreement fell $100 short of the $50,000 threshold that would have required approval from the Spokane City Council.

The incident sparked calls for reform , but no changes to the way police dogs are deployed have been enacted at the local or state level.

The Spokane Police Department’s K-9 Unit is under new leadership, however, and has reduced the percentage of calls that end in a bite since 2019.

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