CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The family of a Tennessee man who died during an arrest involving a police K-9 has filed a lawsuit saying his constitutional rights were violated.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Chad William Songer, 41, died Jan. 31, 2021, shortly after two Bledsoe County sheriff’s deputies confronted him in his front yard and a police dog bit him several times, contributing to his death, according to his family’s lawsuit.
The suit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga against Bledsoe County government and deputies Chase Roberts and Matthew Brock.
Bledsoe County Mayor Gregg Ridley referred calls to Howard Upchurch, who is representing the county in the suit.
“Our investigation, (like that conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation), did not reveal any evidence which would give rise to liability against the officers or the county,” Upchurch said in an email Tuesday.
Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor told the newspaper a grand jury considered the possibility of criminal charges against the dog’s handler, but did not return an indictment.
The lawsuit said the deputies had approached Songer after they learned there were warrants charging him with violation of probation and unpaid child support.
The suit said the officers were shouting and Songer backed away but he was “unarmed and did not pose an imminent threat to anyone, neither the police nor the community.”
Roberts released the K-9 “without warning or justification” and Songer fled but the dog caught him and bit him multiple times, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $280 million.
Songer was later pronounced dead at a hospital and authorities ruled that his cause of death was “by acute methamphetamine overdose and dog bite,” the suit said.
Shortly after Songer’s death, Bledsoe County Sheriff Jimmy Morris said Songer had been uncooperative with officers and refused to put down a splitting maul, an axe-like tool with a long handle used for splitting logs.
“Then he proceeds to come at the K-9 handler with the splitting maul,” Morris said at the time. “They released the K-9 and (Songer) throws the maul at the officer and the K-9, and he goes to running,”