Man sues Houston over K9 attack

July 21, 2010 4:39:49 AM PDT
Houston police officers were looking for suspected car thieves. Instead an elderly heart patient was attacked by one of their K-9 dogs and now he's suing. But the case may not be that cut and dry. Eight months after he says an HPD K-9 tore into his leg, Thomas Hankinson says his life has been turned upside down.

"I'm an old man," he said. "I've had heart problems for a long time and this shouldn't have happened."

It was this past November when Hankinson, staying at the Texan Inn and Suites off I-45, claims officers barged into his room, letting loose a German Shepherd police dog, allowing the dog to viciously attack him. That attack, he claims, resulted in at least 30 bite wounds and a trip to the hospital.

According to his attorney, police had been looking for an auto theft suspect but negligently mistook the 68-year-old with a history of heart problems for the suspect who would turn out to be 30 years younger.

Hankinson's attorney J.W. Stringer said, "We respect that they put their lives on the line for us daily. However, there has to be some caution exercised in doing so. In this case we feel that caution was thrown to the wind."

But Houston City Attorney David Feldman says it's not that clear cut. He says the room Hankinson was staying in was in fact registered to the suspect police had been looking for. He adds that when officers entered the room, Hankinson ignored police demands and instead moved towards the back of the room.

Feldman said, "He was ordered to stop, get on the floor. He did not respond. That's when the bite occurred."

Although police later determined Hankinson was not connected to the auto theft, he was eventually booked for an unrelated outstanding warrant involving theft by check. Hankinson pleaded guilty to that charge but refuses to accept that as the grounds for what happened to him.

"I can't walk too good anymore and I'm afraid this is going to make me have a bad heart attack because of it," Hankinson said.

Hankinson is suing for an undisclosed amount of money.


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