Last January, Kyle Maxwell was standing in a kitchenette at First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood when he was tackled by four Memphis police officers, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by his attorney this week.
Then a police dog, who was off-leash, bit Maxwell multiple times, leading to puncture wounds in his calf. Maxwell, the lawsuit claims, was doing nothing but preparing to do some dishes.
Maxwell is among a handful of residents who live in small apartments at the church, known throughout Memphis as First Congo. The reason police were at the church, the complaint says, is because they were called to investigate a break-in at the church’s food pantry, which is in another part of the building.
On the night of Jan. 24, 2021, church clergy called MPD and reported the break-in, which the clergy could see happening live on security camera footage. Clergy told MPD that the break-in was in the south wing of the church and those who had robbed the food pantry were fleeing on foot down Cooper Street. Maxwell lives in the north wing of the building.
“Although [Maxwell] was posing no threat to anyone as he stood alone in his kitchenette, the Defendants set upon him suddenly, without announcing themselves, and violently tackled him to the ground,” the complaint states.
The complaint alleges that the tackle bruised Maxwell’s tailbone and gave him a knot on his forehead. While he was restrained by officers on the ground, a police dog, known as Caesar, bit him multiple times.
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The dog “was or should have been trained not to bite persons who were under restraint and posing no threat, absent a specific directive from his handler. PLAINTIFF, therefore, alleges, upon information and belief, that one or more of the Defendant officers on scene instructed CAESAR to bite [Maxwell] while [he] was on the ground, restrained, and posing no threat,” the lawsuit said.
Maxwell alleges MPD violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and is entitled to $250,000 in damages.
Maj. Karen Rudolph, a department spokeswoman, said “We are unable to comment on existing or potential litigation.”
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Complaint: Memphis police dog bites man at First Congregational Church