Lawsuit: Police needlessly killed man at Alabama animal shelter

Gavel and scales

A federal lawsuit claims that police in Dothan, Ala., needlessly killed a man who had gone to an animal shelter to drop off a stray dog.

Dothan police were called to the shelter when Robert Earl Lawrence refused to show his driver license to the shelter's staff on Dec. 30, 2014, according to the lawsuit, filed by the dead man's estate. Police have said Lawrence considered himself "a sovereign citizen."

Dothan police Officer Chris Summerlin was the first to arrive, and "took Lawrence to the ground," the lawsuit states. Summerlin then let him up without cuffing him, and Lawrence continued to refuse to provide his ID "based on his personal convictions and beliefs," the lawsuit said.

"Lawrence put his hands up and backed away from Summerlin in order to avoid being arrested," the lawsuit states.