Suit Alleges Excessive Force by Mass. Sheriff's K-9

Two Falmouth women who claim they were victims of an unprovoked attack by a sheriff's dog in 2008 have sued the town, the county sheriff's office, police and the state.


May 25--FALMOUTH -- Two women who claim they were victims of an unprovoked attack by a sheriff's dog in 2008 have sued the town, the county sheriff's office, police and the state.

In a lawsuit filed in Bristol Superior Court earlier this month, Kimberley Frye and Kourtney Lebon contend that they were innocent bystanders when a Barnstable County Sheriff K-9 named Havoc attacked them.

On June 9, 2008, the young women were at a graduation party on Cottontail Circle where a stabbing prompted police to respond to the gathering, according to the complaint and Times archives. The stabbing suspects had crashed the party and stabbed three people with a knife and glass bottle because they were angry about not being invited, police said at the time.

After the early morning stabbing, Frye and Lebon fled into nearby woods.

While Frye was sitting on a log, the sheriff's dog attacked her without warning from the animal or its handler, according to the women.

"The police dog attacked Kimberley (Frye) from behind and bit her on the buttocks," Stephen Roach, the women's attorney, wrote in the 22-page complaint.

Lebon fled through a swampy area and climbed a tree to get away from the dog, but the officers found her and convinced her to come down.

"Before Kourtney (Lebon) had completely lowered herself to the ground, however, Deputy Sheriff (Patrick) Martin allowed the police dog to attack Kourtney and bite her on the left leg," Roach wrote. "The dog's teeth tore her clothing and pierced into her skin."

Martin and two Falmouth police officers stood by and did nothing to immediately stop the dog from biting Lebon, according to the complaint.

The two women were handcuffed and taken to a police car where they were held until an ambulance took them to the hospital.

Police arrested and charged three other people in connection with the stabbings, including a friend of Frye and Lebon who had arrived in the same car with them, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Frye nor Lebon were charged with the stabbings, their attorney Stephen Roach said Tuesday.

A police dog is supposed to be under control of its handler before it is allowed to bite somebody, Roach said, adding that this wasn't the case here.

"That is, as we allege in the complaint, the use of excessive force," he said.

His clients are not only looking for monetary damages but also an order by the court that Martin and the Falmouth police be trained in the proper handling of police dogs, Roach said.

Frye and Lebon suffered multiple wounds on their legs and buttocks that resulted in permanent scarring, physical injuries and emotional damage, according to the complaint. They are seeking at least $300,000 in damages.

In addition to Martin, also named in the suit are Falmouth police officers James F. Cummings, who is the son of Barnstable County Sheriff James M. Cummings, and Dean Eisen.

Falmouth Police Chief Anthony Riello declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing litigation. Attempts to contact Martin, James. F. Cummings and Eisen were unsuccessful.

Sheriff Cummings said he could not comment in depth on the lawsuit, but that these type of situations go along with law enforcement work.

The complaint represents only one side of the story, he said, adding that several people ran into the woods, including Frye and Lebon as well as defendants in the stabbing case.

"It's a risky part of the business," Sheriff Cummings said. "That's why a lot of towns don't have canines and they ask us to do it for them."

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