There is an old, disgusting, kinda sick joke that we used to share when I was a kid: you’re in a pit filled with feces up to your neck and somebody is about to pour a bucket filled with vomit on your head. Do you duck?
That was the choice faced by Martin Lee Hoogveldt when police burst into his home, ordered him to put his hands in the air and then released the dog. This is an ugly, graphic video.
There was nothing about Hoogveldt that should have suggested to the police that he was violent or a threat to them, aside from the fact that bad things happen when cops forcibly enter a home without a warrant. His “offense” wasn’t exactly offensive.
On March 24, 2013, Hoogveldt decided to burn a Christmas tree in a trash can in his backyard, which brought police officers to his residence on a disturbing-the-peace complaint, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
After Hoogveldt walked back into his house, he saw that three West Jordan officers had surrounded the home — one in the backyard, a second outside his kitchen window and a third outside the front door. The first two had their guns pointed at him, while the one at his door had a German shepherd on a leash.
The backyard fires alarmed a neighbor, who called the police because some people feel that it’s got to be a nefarious crime when someone does something you don’t think they should. And the West Jordan police department was only too happy to oblige, bringing police pointing their weapons at Hoogveldt lest he light another Christmas tree on fire.
[Police Officer Ian] Adams commanded Hoogveldt a few more times to open the door, or it would be kicked in, but the man was “paralyzed with fear,” the complaint reads.
Adams eventually kicked the door open and the other officers followed him in.
Sykes said the officers did not have a warrant.
The warrantless entry was due to the emergency, a fire in the backyard that could have burned the entire neighborhood, but for the fact that it was only a fire in the backyard. But the police only knew of a fire, and ignorance overcomes all rights and prohibitions, dictating that they take the most extreme action possible.
When Adams ordered Hoogveldt to put up his hands, he complied. Adams then told him to get off the couch, but according to the complaint, Hoogveldt would have had to put his hands down to get off the deep, overstuffed couch.
Akin to the situation where one officer commands a person to put his hands up, while another screams at him to get on the ground, while another yells “freeze,” a quandary is created. Which officer would you prefer shoot first? It never seems to occur to police that people can’t comply with conflicting commands, and calls for the Police Academy to teach physics have gone unanswered.
Several seconds passed. After Hoogveldt didn’t get up, Adams commanded his dog to attack Hoogveldt, who still had his hands up.
The German shepherd, Pyro, grabbed Hoogveldt’s face with his jaws, and ripped and tore at his face for several seconds, the complaint reads.
So the dilemma that existed when Hoogveldt was ordered to keep his hands up, then stand up, was compounded as the doggie munched down on his face. That the dog’s name was Pyro will remain undiscussed.
What are the options? Lower his hands to get out of the chair? Boom. Keep the hands raised and have a dog chow on cheek? Boom. Hoogveldt’s dilemma, which clearly didn’t trouble Ian Adams very much, went from extremely painful and potentially deadly to extremely painful and potentially deadly. If only the dog’s name was Sophie.
“The canine pulled Hoogveldt off the couch by his face, with Hoogveldt screaming in pain,” according to the complaint. “… Adams came over after a few seconds, and with some difficulty caused the canine to release his grip of the face.”
The other officers then used Tasers on Hoogveldt.
After all, Tasers are less than lethal and they couldn’t risk Pyro’s jaw growing weary. Yet, Pyro was not to be denied.
Sykes estimated they used Tasers on him three to four times. One to two minutes later, Pyro bit Hoogveldt severely on his buttocks at Adams’ direction, the complaint adds.
As if this requires emphasis to underscore the irrationality, bear in mind that Hoogveldt’s “crime” was burning a Christmas tree in the backyard. He wasn’t an armed robber, or raping and robbing old ladies. He was a tree burner. He would have been a character in an Arlo Guthrie song, but for the dog chewing on his face and police officers pointing guns at him lest he . . . do what?
That’s answered by the West Jordan police response to Hoogveldt’s complaints.
The West Jordan Police Department maintains that their officers were in danger and that appropriate force was used to take Lee Hoogveldt into custody.
The West Jordan Police Department said the video tells an incomplete story. In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Sgt. Dan Roberts said they’d been called to Hoogveldts residence by neighbors who’d felt threatened by him and were concerned about a fire burning in his back yard.
“To protect the neighborhood, they had to go in and secure Mr. Hoogveldt,” he said. “The fire department could not respond to take care of the fires.”
Roberts also said Hoogveldt is well-known to the police department.
“His history included an aggravated assault with a weapon, and another incident in which officers found a knife concealed on his person,” Roberts said.
After all, any guy who is found with “a knife concealed on his person” is clearly a threat and certainly deserves to have a dog chew his face off. But the police explain further that the video fails to tell the whole story:
Officers were already aware of Hoogveldt’s recent history with police when they arrived, he said. They were worried that he might start a fire inside his home. Furthermore, officers noticed an empty knife sheath as they entered. Because Hoogveldt did not follow officers’ commands to stand up, they were afraid he was trying to entice them to get closer and then attack with a knife, Roberts said.
Now that you know, doesn’t the dog chewing off his face while he has his hands in the air make a lot more sense? And everybody loves puppies.