COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A man who was bitten by a K-9 during a traffic stop is planning to sue the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, alleging excessive force.
According to the notice of intent, a deputy of the Sheriff’s Office deployed the K-9, which bit 23-year-old Martinezz Bowman. It states that other deputies had their guns drawn on him during the traffic stop that occurred on Oct. 23.
Bowman told News4Jax he’ll never forget what happened.
“I definitely felt like I was going to die,” he said.
Attorney John Phillips, who’s representing Bowman, says his client is seeking a substantial settlement to pay for medical expenses. He provided dashcam footage of the incident, which was edited and contains subtitles.
(Viewer discretion advised. Video contains content some may find graphic in nature, including photos of the man’s injuries.)
The video shows that Bowman first drives past a Columbia County deputy on U.S. 441 in a white Dodge Charger. The deputy pulls out and follows Bowman, whose tail lights were not illuminated while driving.
Moments later, as Bowman is attempting to make a left turn onto Gerson Street, the deputy turns on the emergency lights and siren. At this point, Bowman appears to slow down but not immediately pull over. After the sirens were engaged for approximately 23 seconds, Bowman pulls the car over. Both his turn signal and brake lights were illuminated as he continues slowing down.
Phillips says his client has a fear of police following the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony Green and other incidents in which African Americans were killed by police officers.
“He wanted to get home where there was light, instead of pulling over on a two-lane road, and the deputy mistook that as this felony evading, and it escalated from moment one,” Philips said.
The video shows Bowman pulling in his driveway. A deputy then says something that Phillips believes raises red flags.
Deputy: “He’s probably going to try to bail.”
As Bowman appears to be stopping in his driveway, deputies immediately jump out of the patrol vehicle with their guns drawn.
Deputy: “Driver stop!”
Bowman: “What are you mad for?”
Deputy: “Stop right now!”
Bowman: “Are you going to shoot me?”
Deputy: “Put your hands out the window!”
Bowman: “Are you going to shoot me?”
Bowman is heard repeatedly asking the deputies if they are going to shoot him.
Deputy: “I will release my dog if you do not step out of the vehicle! Keep hands on, I’m about to pull my dog.”
Bowman: “This is my house, bro. You are not going to shoot me, bro.”
About 20 seconds go by.
Deputy: “Last warning!”
Bowman: “Step out?”
Deputy: “Sheriff’s Office K-9!”
Bowman: “You want me to get out?”
Deputy: “Sheriff’s Office K-9! You better stop! Stand there! Turn around! Face away from me now! I will release this dog if you do not!”
The deputy yells repeatedly for Bowman to put his hands up, turn around and back toward him. Bowman says he complied with the deputy’s demands. Bowman can not be seen in the dashcam video.
“I wasn’t trying to run. He just let the dog go on me for nothing,” Bowman said.
Bowman says he still requires surgeries after the dog chewed down to the bone of his leg.
“I can walk, but not normal. I have a limp,” he said.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson took a look at the video. He said it’s not uncommon for people to pull into their driveway when it’s close by and when they don’t feel safe.
“It’s apparent he’s not trying to elude them or get away from them, but there’s chatter among the officers saying he’s probably going to run or he may run. So now they’ve got a preconceived notion of what he’s going to do,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson says the incident was not treated as a typical stop for a tail light.
“The question is what crime has been committed outside a civil citation for no tail lights at that time? You have to wonder why are they making this a felony takedown? What made them feel threatened to pull their guns out and try to extract this person out of the car at gunpoint?” Jefferson said.
No criminal charges have been filed against Bowman.
News4Jax requested comment from the Sheriff’s Office. It declined to make a statement due to the pending lawsuit.