LANSING, Mich. — A trooper with the Michigan State Police was acquitted Tuesday by a jury after being charged with felony assault for not calling his police K9 off the apprehension bite quick enough when the suspect was on the ground with an injury that turned out to be a broken hip.
Trooper Parker Surbrook directed K9 Knox to apprehend Robert Gilliam for 3 minutes and 44 seconds in Lansing in 2020. The suspect previously led police on a high-speed chase and crashed his vehicle into a tree November 13, 2020, leaving him lying on the ground with a broken hip, the Associated Press reported.
During trial, prosecutors claimed Surbrook used his K9 as a “dangerous weapon” by leaving him on the bite as Gilliam was trying to surrender. Naturally, the trooper did not know the suspect was unable to flee due to his injury.
“You can second-guess what I did, but I know what my dog did. He was protecting me,” Surbrook testified.
Surbrook’s defense attorney, Patrick O’Keefe, said the K9 handler was following his training while waiting for additional help to arrive. He referred to it as a “highly stressful, potentially lethal situation” in which backup officers took an unusually long time to find the scene, Lansing State Journal reported.
“You can’t look at this case with 20/20 hindsight, play Monday morning quarterback to judge (Surbrook’s) actions after the fact,” said O’Keefe, who urged jurors to consider how things looked to the trooper at the time.
Following a three day trial, the jury found Surbrook not guilty of felonious assault after deliberating for about 2½ hours on Tuesday.
Surbrook and K9 Knox were working with the Lansing Police Department as part of the Secure Cities Partnership program. The department’s Violent Crime Impact Team — comprised of uniformed and undercover officers — were working in a high-crime area that night, Lansing State Journal reported.
Gilliam drove to a liquor store with a man he knew only as “Rambo.” As the two men left the store, an officer saw what he thought was a gun on “Rambo.” Surbrook, who was in a marked state police cruiser, tried to stop Gilliam after he left the store, but the suspect fled at speeds reaching 100 mph before he crashed.
According to FOX 2 Detroit, Gilliam filed a lawsuit against the Michigan State Police in 2021.