Video shows Sacramento sheriff’s K-9 attack on suspect that spawned civil rights…

Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies are being sued over an incident during which a police dog was unleashed on a man and latched onto his right arm, severing an artery, until a deputy struggled to pull the canine off.

Then, after the suspect had been hospitalized for days and was being taken to jail, a deputy driving while using his phone and typing on a computer rear-ended another vehicle and left the man with whiplash, court records say.

The lawsuit, filed by Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin, involves a deputy’s attempt to apprehend Salvador Garcia Jr. on suspicion of violating an ex-girlfriend’s restraining order on Sept. 17, 2022.

But Merin says body camera video of the incident he just received shows a “vicious animal” attacking his client needlessly and rendering Garcia unable to use his right arm.

“This is an absolutely outrageous, excessive use of force,” Merin said, adding that Garcia was on a bicycle when a deputy ordered him to stop and was turning around to comply when the dog was unleashed.

“They just, boom, release the dog with no indication he was resisting or attempting to escape or was violent or possessed a weapon,” Merin said.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on pending litigation, and lawyers for the county have filed a general denial of allegations in the lawsuit, which seeks damages for excessive force, unreasonable post-arrest care, assault and other claims.

The video of the incident shows it beginning as Garcia was riding a bicycle in front of the Cypress Village Apartment Complex, 3721 Marconi Ave., when a deputy ordered him to stop, jumped out of his patrol SUV, drew his firearm and gave chase while warning, “You’re going to get bit by my dog, homie.”

Within seconds, the K-9 knocked Garcia to the ground and latched onto his right arm, then began wrenching it back and forth.

“Get the f— on the ground,” the deputy says on the video as Garcia screams in pain. “Get your hands behind your back.”

An image taken from bodyworn video, suspect Salvador Garcia Jr. is seen being subdued by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office K-9 at the Cypress Village Apartment Complex on Marconi Avenue in Arden Arcade on Sept. 17, 2022. Garcia is suing the county over his treatment by the dog and deputies.

‘Tie him off or he’s going to bleed to death’

The deputy tried to handcuff Garcia’s wrists behind his back, but the dog continued to shake his arm back and forth, even after the deputy managed to cuff his hands together.

The dog’s jaws stayed clamped on Garcia’s arm for one minute and 14 seconds — including 31 seconds after he had been cuffed — and did not release until the deputy grabbed the dog’s head with both hands and managed to pull him away.

Even then, with Garcia cuffed and face down as another deputy stood over him, the dog continued to bark and lunge at Garcia while his handler tried to hold him back, the video shows.

By then, Garcia was bleeding profusely and an arriving deputy warned that someone needed to apply a tourniquet.

“Tie him off or he’s going to bleed to death,” the lawsuit quotes the deputy as instructing.

“You can see how casually the officer is approaching the scene with the dog just ripping Garcia’s arm,” Merin said in an interview. “Then, when he gets there, he says, ‘Give me your arm,’ as if someone who’s being savagely attacked by a dog can free his arm.

“The officer tries to get the dog to stop ripping at Garcia’s arm and he’s unable to do it. The dog continues to hang on ripping his arm back and forth. The officer was unable to control that dog.

“The dog was clearly just a vicious animal.”

An image taken from bodyworn video, suspect Salvador Garcia Jr. is seen on the ground after being subdued by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office K-9 at the Cypress Village Apartment Complex on Marconi Avenue in Arden Arcade on Sept. 17, 2022. Garcia is suing the county over his treatment by the dog and deputies.

An image taken from bodyworn video, suspect Salvador Garcia Jr. is seen on the ground after being subdued by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office K-9 at the Cypress Village Apartment Complex on Marconi Avenue in Arden Arcade on Sept. 17, 2022. Garcia is suing the county over his treatment by the dog and deputies.

The bodyworn video shows the deputy cleaning Garcia’s blood off his hands as paramedics arrive, and Garcia was taken to a hospital for treatment that lasted several days, the lawsuit says.

Merin said Garcia’s bill for initial treatment was $189,000.

“He’s presently unable to use his right arm, and that’s a big deal,” Merin said. “Not only is it disfigured, but being unable to use the arm disables him for life for many occupations.”

Garcia, a long-haul truck driver, may not be able to resume his career because of his injuries, and the dog attack was only the start of his difficulties with sheriff’s deputies, according to the lawsuit.

After his release from the hospital, Garcia was handed over to another deputy for transport to the Sacramento County Main Jail, but the deputy was on his phone and using his in-car computer when he rear-ended another vehicle near Interstate 80 and Highway 160, leaving Garcia with whiplash and other symptoms, the suit says.

Use of police K-9s questioned

The use of dogs to support law enforcement officers has been lauded as a means to help keep officers safe and criticized by some who argue the practice can lead to death and disability of suspects and hearkens back to abuses during civil rights marches.

“The use of police canines has been a mainstay in this country’s dehumanizing, cruel, and violent abuse of Black Americans and people of color for centuries,” a bill introduced in California’s Assembly earlier this year to limit police use of canines said. “First used by slave catchers, police canines are a violent carryover from America’s dark past.

“In recent decades, they have been used in brutal attempts to quell the Civil Rights Movement, the L.A. Race Riots, and in response to Black Lives Matter protests. The use of police canines makes people fear and further distrust the police, resulting in less safety and security for all, especially for communities of color.”

The measure by Assemblyman Corey Jackson, D-Riverside, faced backlash from law enforcement and currently is inactive.

Merin, who said he recently settled another K-9 lawsuit against the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office for $400,000, lists a series of other Sacramento sheriff’s K-9 incidents in the lawsuit that he describes as excessive force and examples of inadequate training and supervision.

One involved a January incident in which a man called sheriff’s deputies after an argument with his roommate and deputies entered the home and set a dog on the roommate while he was asleep in his bed listening to white noise on headphones, the lawsuit says.

The man, a barber, had his right arm mauled by the dog “down to the bone” and now is faced with the loss of income because of his injuries, according to the lawsuit, which is pending.

The suit alleges that sheriff’s officials “knowingly participated in, acquiesced to, and/or were deliberately indifferent” to an informal policy that led to inadequate training and supervision that leads to canines being released against suspects who are not resisting and do not pose a threat.

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