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Lawsuit claims police dog attacked sleeping man

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By David Giuliani

A man is suing the city of Las Vegas, claiming that a police dog attacked him while he was sleeping in his son’s house.

Demetrio Esquibel Sr. filed a lawsuit in state District Court earlier this month against the city and Las Vegas officers Albert Sandoval, Juan Montao, Steven Gutierrez and Matias Apodaca.

Represented by Taos attorney Stephen Peterson, Esquibel claims to have suffered permanent injuries to his stomach, thigh and leg.

According to the lawsuit, the police showed up at Esquibel’s son’s mobile home at 1038 Second St. on June 16, 2006. After watching the house for a while, officers spotted a woman arriving who was believed to be a crack cocaine user. They saw Esquibel’s son, Demetrio Esquibel Jr., meet with the woman and let her inside, the lawsuit states.

After officers approached the woman when she was leaving, Esquibel Jr. ran through a back door and fled, according to the lawsuit. He was apprehended shortly after.

Even though both suspects were in custody, Officer Gutierrez, on orders from Sgt. Montao, conducted a “protective sweep” of the mobile home, the lawsuit states. The officers didn’t have a warrant to conduct the search, according to court documents.

Esquibel Sr. contends in the lawsuit that no warning was given or if it was, it wasn’t loud enough for anyone inside to hear.

“The police service dog Canine Kiran searched the mobile home, discovering the plaintiff asleep in the back bedroom and immediately attacked the sleeping plaintiff, severely biting him on the thigh, stomach and leg,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit contends that Esquibel Sr. never acted in an aggressive manner toward the officers or the dog during the “unprovoked attack.”

The documents further state that Esquibel Sr. was never a suspect in any criminal activity and that both suspects were already in custody when he was attacked.

Esquibel Sr. was handcuffed and then taken to Alta Vista Regional Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

“They had people in custody, and this person was asleep. It seems pretty outlandish to me,” attorney Peterson said.

Peterson has filed cases before against the Police Department involving police dog attacks. He said that during discovery in one case, he found that the dogs had bitten people “quite a few times.”

“I can’t say that every one was because of negligence, but it made me wonder about the thoroughness of training that the city provides to dog handlers,” he said.

Police Chief Gary Gold said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation, but he noted that the police were in the process of reviewing all of their policies, including those for handling of dogs.

Gold, who started as chief last summer, said only one lawsuit has been filed against the police for anything that’s happened since he took the helm.