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Family of Black man mauled to death by police dog fights for bodycam footage

The family has filed a lawsuit after Joseph Lee Pettaway was mauled to death by a police dog in 2018.

Joseph Lee Pettaway family Montgomery Advertiser

The family of Joseph Lee Pettaway is fighting back after he was mauled to death by a police dog in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. According to new filings in an ongoing lawsuit, the man’s family has subpoenaed the bodycam footage of the incident.

The Montgomery Police Department previously refused to confirm that the footage of the last moment’s of Pettaway’s life existed. The subpoena is part of a lawsuit the family filed in 2019 following Pettaway’s killing in 2018.

According to court documents obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser, the man, who was 51 at the time, was at a house that his 87-year-old mother owned in Montgomery, on July 8, 2018. The man had been looking after his mom and helping her fix up the home, and was given the key and allowed to sleep there.

Someone saw him entering the vacant house and called the police to report him as an intruder. Police officer Nicholas Barber arrived at the scene with his K-9 dog Niko. The dog searched the premises and ran inside toward Pettaway and lunged at him. The man was attacked by the dog and the K-9 handler failed to stop the K-9 and stood by for two minutes as it mauled the man before intervening.

According to the court documents, the dog tore an artery in the man’s groin causing him to bleed out and later died from the wounds at a hospital. Yvonne Pettaway-Frazier said her brother was left brutally bitten on the pavement and his blood covered the pavement outside the home. “I saw it with my own eyes: His flesh was all on the ground that morning,” Pettaway-Frazier told the Montgomery Advertiser.

The family is now arguing for a portion of the bodycam footage of the attack to be publicly entered into evidence, fighting the “confidential” designation of the video. The family attorneys filed a timeline of a portion of the footage. According to the document, multiple police officers failed to provide any first aid to Pettaway after he was attacked.

“Despite Mr. Pettaway’s obvious and profuse bleeding and his apparently going into shock, no policeman examines or evaluates [Pettaway’s] wound and no policeman administers any of the most basic, essential, obvious and immediately required care to stem or reduce his bleeding,” the lawsuit documents say according to the Atlanta Black Star.

The document also alleges that the officers carried him to the pavement outside of the house, standing around him as he bled. The dog handler joked with other officers and took cell phone photos of Pettaway before moving him outside, as officers appear to wait for EMS personnel to arrive. According to the documents, another officer asked Barber if Pettaway got “a bite” and Barber allegedly replied, “F--- yeah.”

Lizzie Mae Pettaway, the victim’s mother, is also demanding justice for her son’s murder. “They stood up there and let the dog kill him,” she said. “They need to pay for what they did. If someone had killed the dog, they’d have made them pay for it. They stand out there and hold a conversation after letting the dog chew him like a piece of meat, watching him bleed to death.”

A federal judge has scheduled an October hearing on the matter.

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