Four officers investigating a burglary were attacked, not by a fleeing burglar, but a swarm of fleas in a filth-ridden vacant house.

The tiny, biting attackers were so overwhelming that the South Bend patrolmen had to be decontaminated and ended up being sent home early from their shifts.

"They were all over the placeā€”in our socks and even in our shorts. It was disgusting," said Cpl. Ken Stuart.

To avoid infesting their squad cars, the police station or relatives, Stuart, Cpl. Chris Slager and Patrolman Paul Strabavy endured a lengthy flea decontamination process.

A van took them back to the station, where the men showered with flea/lice shampoo and soap. A wife of one of the officers brought them spare clothes.

As many as seven officers helped with the decontamination on Sunday.

"The guys were very angry. The last thing they wanted to deal with was fleas," said Sgt. Chuck Stokes. "That killed the whole shift."

Stokes said the house's tenants had recently been evicted, but returned periodically to feed a dog tied up in the backyard and allowed it to run around inside the garbage-filled house.