Shoplifting Suspect Winds Up In Hospital for Month After K9 Used in Arrest

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Photo courtesy Ashley Remkus |

A Mississippi man accused of shoplifting from a Tuscaloosa Walmart is thankful he still has his arm after a Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s K9 deputy was sent after him March 5.

Derek Stokes spent more than a month in the hospital recovering from his injuries, and is currently living with a skin graft connecting his arm to his stomach. So far, he’s undergone five surgeries, and more are on the way.

Stokes’ attorney, Martin Weinberg, said he thinks K9s shouldn’t be used by authorities as part of their tactics to subdue potential suspects.

“This is something emotionally and physically he will have to deal with for the rest of his life,” Weinberg said. “It’s a traumatic event so he will be going through rehab and other physical and mental services for some time.”

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said the K9 was deployed to assist a Tuscaloosa Police Officer who was in distress at the Skyland Boulevard Walmart.

Stokes, who was accused of theft, did not comply with officers’ orders, the sheriff’s office said.

“We’re contending that there was no theft or anything stolen,” Weinberg said. “We haven’t seen any video we have asked for it from Walmart.”

Weinberg said he believes Stokes was complying with officers, but the sheriff’s office said that’s not the case, and that attempts to subdue Stokes with a taser were not effective.

Investigators said the officer gave Stokes multiple commands to stop but he did not. That’s when the K9 was sent in.

Weinberg said it’s inhumane for dogs to be used when apprehending anyone, much less someone accused of a nonviolent crime.

After the K9’s deployment, Stokes was restrained and handcuffed, then taken to DCH Regional Medical Center. Stokes has not been formally charged.

The case is heading to a Grand Jury.

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