On June 9, 2023, the City of Millville (Cumberland County, New Jersey) agreed to pay $110,000 to a Florida man who said that police used excessive force by unnecessarily releasing a police dog upon him, severely injuring his right leg.

In his suit, Tyler Beniston, claimed that on July 13, 2019, Officer John Butschky, a K-9 unit member of the Millville Police Department, alongside officers Anthony Jones and Michael Rodriguez, responded to a domestic violence call at a Lisa Marie Terrace home involving Beniston and his grandfather, William Desoi. Upon arrival, Desoi reportedly informed the officers that after an argument, Beniston had left the residence and was shirtless in gym shorts. Desoi “also specifically advised officers that Tyler Beniston was not armed with any weapons,” according to the court filing. Acting on Desoi’s hint that Beniston might be in a nearby wooded area, Officers Butschky and Rodriguez initiated a search.

Beniston was found approximately 400 feet into the woods, heading towards the road. He asserted that even though he displayed no aggression and didn’t try to flee, and was clearly unarmed, Officer Butschky unleashed his K-9, Rio. The dog subsequently attacked Beniston, allegedly inflicting serious damage to his right leg below the knee.

The case is captioned Beniston v. City of Millville, et al, Docket No. CUM-L-431-21 and Beniston’s attorney was Oliver T. Barry of Wildwood. The civil lawsuit and settlement order are in a combined PDF file on-line here.

None of Beniston’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $110,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Millville or any of its employees and officials. All that is known for sure is that Millville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Beniston $110,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]