A Harris County Sheriff’s K-9 dog is still on duty, as is his handler after the dog was sent in after the wrong person in Tomball.
The dog attacked Tim Young during a search for a car thief, leaving him with serious wounds in the May 5 incident. The sheriff told ABC13 the suspect had been spotted in the area.
The Youngs are not eager to sue, but facing months away from work, they want to make sure Tim’s mounting medical bills are taken care of and any needed changes made at the sheriff’s office.
“We would like to see the HCSO say ‘we messed this one up and we do apologize to the family and we were wrong’,” said Young family attorney Stace Williams.
While apologetic, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has not taken the dog or its handler off the street, believing the deputy followed his training, he said.
“I apologize,” Gonzalez said. “It’s always traumatic for anyone to be bit, especially if it’s not the target we’re searching for.”
Gonzalez has seen the video and his internal affairs team is investigating, he said.
“I have to, at this point, believe the deputy did in their training what they thought was appropriate,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez claims the deputy gave ample warning.
“One of the deputies heard the handler give the commands,” Gonzalez said.
Tim and his father both say they never heard any warning. Another witness, Don Lorenz, who is seen in the video wearing a maroon shirt, was in the area at the time and didn’t hear anything either, he said.
“Nobody told us who they were,” Lorenz said. “We did not hear one word of warning.”
That afternoon, Young was fixing an air conditioner under a Tomball mobile home. The dog was on the hunt for that car thief who’d been spotted in the area.
“I didn’t hear [anything],” Young said. “I didn’t see [anything]. I just felt a real sharp pain and I look down and there is a dog.”
In the dark crawl space under the mobile home, he said he grabbed the dog’s mouth and held it shut, not knowing it was a Sheriff’s K-9. He turned around and saw a man in uniform in the opening to the crawl space screaming at him to let the dog go.
“As soon as I let go, the dog bit me,” Young said.
Graphic video of the incident starts as Young is being dragged from under the trailer – video that shows the dog still pulling at the flesh of his arm.
Raised to respect law enforcement, Young is still having a tough time making sense of the incident.
Deputies at that point were still unaware the K-9 had torn into an innocent air conditioning repairman, not the suspect.
Tim works every day with his father. You can see him in the video.
“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen,” Tim’s father Allen Young said.
Allen ripped his belt out as a tourniquet but couldn’t get it tight enough to stop his son’s bleeding, he said.
“I asked him for help and I don’t know if he’s having a bad day, he just said, ‘Do it yourself,'” Allen said.
In the video, the deputy first tells Allen to ‘tie it’, but doesn’t appear to get involved.
More than a minute later, that deputy is kneeling next to Tim with a towel on the wound.
“It could’ve been the suspect, it could’ve been kids, it could’ve been an air conditioning repairman. At that point, the handler had no idea,” ABC13 investigative reporter Ted Oberg asked.
“Correct,” Gonzalez said.
“No one ever asked, ‘are people working, are there children underneath there’,” Williams said. “Had it not been a 25-year-old weight-lifting, strong, healthy guy, it would’ve been a much different outcome.”
“I felt like I went from being a help to being a burden,” Gonzalez said.
“A police attack dog is a deadly weapon,” Williams said. “If you’re going to use a deadly weapon, you have to make sure you got the right guy.”
“They got the wrong guy.”
Williams also takes issue with how deputies reacted after Young was identified as the wrong guy.
“His father asked for help in applying a tourniquet, and he was refused,” Williams said.
Surgeons replaced the missing chunk of Tim’s artery. As he heals, he and his family are guided by faith and hope he will get back to work and his music and exercise. He stayed in intensive care for days. Who he prayed for in that time?
“I didn’t know what to pray about except for, it sounds kind of funny, but the officers,” Young said.
Both the officer and dog remain on duty despite the investigation, the sheriff said.
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