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Maricopa County investigating K9 attack that injured man, Penzone says

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone (AP Photo/Raquel Dillion)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said his office is continuing to investigate an incident involving a county K9 officer that was seen on body camera footage attacking a 27-year-old man last year.

“I have an obligation…to make sure that any and all events that occur by anybody who represents this organization — that we’re thorough, we’re factual and we’re transparent,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Monday.

Penzone added that the department “evaluate(s) those circumstances to determine if they were the most appropriate, lawful and within policy and effective with the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish a goal.”

Shane McGough filed a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in which he claimed that he was tortured after deputies allowed a K9 officer to bite him for more than three minutes while McGough was pinned down and handcuffed in a holding cell.

The incident began with McGough and his friends arguing with an Uber driver over an alleged car accident while leaving the Salt River on July 15, 2017, according to the Phoenix New Times.

Two Maricopa County deputies, Michael Finney and David Crissinger, working as private security responded and saw a handgun in McGough’s truck while they were searching the vehicle.

McGough then tried to block Finney, claiming it was an unlawful search, when Finney allegedly “forcefully grabbed” McGough’s throat. McGough then allegedly fought back, “striking Finney with a closed fist.” Crissinger also allegedly “twisted and fractured his leg” while tackling McGough, the website reported.

McGough is suing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for $4 million and the Forest Service for $2 million, arguing for emotional and physical damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

While Penzone declined to give specific details, citing the ongoing investigation and litigation, he defended the deputies’ use of a K9 officer.

“K9s — like every other resource we have — every element of some type of force, it has to be applied when appropriate when other options are either unavailable or deemed to be ineffective,” Penzone said.

“Depending on the threat that any individual poses — what are they capable of, what have they shown they’re capable of or what are they trying to actually deliver — means that any law enforcement official needs to determine what resources are totally available to suppress or control or eliminate that potential threat.”

Penzone acknowledged that while K9 officers can be used in a range of circumstances, there will be additional “scrutiny” or “concerns” because of the environment that the incident involving McGough occurred in.

“My job as a sheriff is to make sure that why, how and if we are going to utilize that type of a tool, was it appropriate and was it the most effective thing available to us because of the threat that the individual posed to the deputies?” he added.

The internal investigation involving the incident is still ongoing and will continue indefinitely, Penzone said, pointing to the litigation and the current number of internal investigations as two reasons why. He said he would come forward with more answers when the department has them.

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