A Riverdale man was mauled by a Fayette County Sheriff’s K-9 Thursday morning after the door of a deputy’s vehicle opened unexpectedly and released the dog.
Mang Dieke, 52, was taking a break at about 2 a.m., outside the Fayetteville Walmart where he works. That’s when Darko, a Belgian Malinois, leaped out the back door of the sheriff’s department Chevy Tahoe, parked there while the deputy had gone inside to use the restroom.
“He (Dieke) was sitting there, drinking his coffee, and he hears a door pop, and the next thing he knows there’s a dog in his face,” said Fayette County Sheriff’s Major Bryan Woodie.
The dog grabbed onto Dieke, who struggled into the Walmart to escape it. Inside the store, it attacked him again. The deputy saw the commotion as he was leaving the restroom and rushed to restrain Darko, according to Woodie.
After he returned the dog to his SUV, the deputy called an ambulance, then went back to wait with Dieke, who went to Piedmont Fayette Hospital and was then transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries. He was later released.
Dieke, who was bitten on his arm, side and groin, declined to comment on the incident.
Nobody’s sure why the SUV car door popped open, but Woodie said he thinks someone else’s remote car key may have inadvertently triggered it. Sheriff’s employees checked Thursday with the Federal Communications Commission and were told that radio interference between remotely keyed cars isn’t unheard of.
Woodie said they later spoke with the manufacturer of their door lock, American Aluminum of Perry, Fla., and were told that those particular mechanisms hadn’t been sold by American in two years for exactly that reason.
Woodie said that was the first they had heard of it.
“They (American) never used the word ‘recall’ when my lieutenant called them. They just said they stopped using them because of reports of interference,” Woodie said.
Reached by phone Friday, American Aluminum president Tom Swain said he didn’t want to comment until he had more information about what had happened.
Because deputies can remotely open their car doors to get help from their dogs in dangerous situations, Darko was trained to look for his handler and expect danger when the door popped open. “They’re like heat-seeking missiles, they’re looking for daddy,” Woodie said.
What Darko saw instead was a very surprised Dieke.
“The last thing I want to say is that Mr. Dieke did anything wrong,” Woodie said. “He was just sitting there.”
Woodie said he later visited Dieke in the hospital.
“He’s obviously upset with us,” Woodie said of Dieke, “and I don’t see how we can blame him.”