Harris County police K-9 attack at center of lawsuit for 'violating' man's constitution rights

The lawsuit names the estate of Sgt. Robert Johnson, who died by suicide in a standoff after accusations of child sex abuse.

Miya Shay Image
Friday, February 24, 2023
Disturbing video of K-9 attacking suspect leads to federal lawsuit
A federal lawsuit has been filed two sergeants and a deputy of Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's office following a video of a K-9 attack.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Disturbing body-worn camera footage has led to a federal civil rights lawsuit being filed against two sergeants and a deputy of a Harris County Constable's office.

Filed by the Civil Rights Corps based out of Washington, D.C., the suit alleges that the officers' use of excessive force and subsequent cover-up violated Kerry Lee Thomas' constitutional rights. The complaint alleges that in February 2021, Sgt. Robert Johnson sicced his attack dog on Thomas, 36, while he lay prone on the ground with his arms outstretched.

"We're filing in federal court because Sgt. Johnson and his fellow officers are violating our client's constitutional rights, his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force," attorney Shirley LaVarco said.

The basis of the lawsuit is Johnson's body-worn camera footage, which was released by the attorneys along with an announcement on the lawsuit.

The incident occurred when officers arrived at the scene following a report of a disturbance outside a home. In the video, you can see Sgt. Johnson yelling commands at Thomas and, at various times, threatening to unleash his K-9. The suit alleges he and the other officers allowed the attack dog to tear at Thomas's right arm, causing him severe and lasting physical and emotional injuries.

At one point, Sgt. Johnson allegedly perched on Thomas's back while then-Cpl. Wayne Schultz and Deputy Eric M. Bruss stood just steps away, aiming a gun at Thomas and threatening him as he writhed in pain. After Thomas was handcuffed, Johnson could be seen praising the dog, and then yelling, "Whoo!!"

The lawsuit is filed against the three deputies on scene, not at the Harris County Precinct 1 Constables case.

In an unrelated situation, Johnson confessed to sexually abusing multiple children, at least one of whom he reportedly drugged. Following a six-hour standoff with the police, Sgt. Johnson died by suicide. So in this lawsuit, Thomas is suing Johnson's estate, as well as from the other two officers.

SEE ALSO: Deputy's dying confession leads to child sex crime charges against 2 colleagues

"Rusk and Schultz need to be held accountable.They need to be held in a court of law and should have been disciplined long ago," LaVarco said.

ABC13 reached out to Constable Alan Rosen's office. They were unaware of the lawsuit, which was just filed. They are also uncertain whether anyone, either Thomas or maybe someone from his family, filed an internal affairs complaint against the deputies after the incident. The constable's office is currently looking into this incident and whether any complaints were filed.

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