Cellphone footage recorded during an arrest shows a Yakima police officer prompting a police dog to bite a suspect while he's pinned down on the ground. The video, which has been widely circulated on social media, has sparked backlash over the use of unnecessary force and has sparked an investigation by a Yakima police review board.
The clip, shot and posted by Noemi Sanchez, shows two civilians and a state trooper restraining a suspect to the ground before a Yakima officer gets his K-9 dog out of his vehicle and lets it loose on the man, identified as Jose Zaragoza.
"You're going to get bit," the men holding the suspect down can be heard saying repeatedly before forcing the canine to bite Zaragoza in the leg as he screams in pain.
"As I was walking over, I pulled out my cell phone just to record police and any interaction that may be happening," said Sanchez, who happened to be in the parking lot when the arrest took place. "There was already a state patrolman on top of him, civilians on top of him, yet they chose to have the dog come out and bite him," said Sanchez. Watch the video below:
Use of K-9 Dog Justified, Says Police
According to state troopers, the 53-year-old man was arrested after they spotted a truck swerving across a highway on Tuesday evening. When the driver started speeding, a pursuit ensued and continued until the suspect drove into the parking lot, exited the vehicle and started fleeing on foot.
The man was then tackled by a trooper before two bystanders joined in to assist the officer. During the struggle on the ground, Zaragoza refused to place his arms behind his back, and therefore the Yakima police officer brought in a police dog to bite the man's leg until his hands were cuffed.
A Yakima police official said the decision to use the canine was justifiable given the man's refusal to comply with the officer's orders. "He's refusing to give him his arms, he's pushing himself up and it appears like he's trying to stand up," said Yakima Police Lt. Chad Stevens.
According to Yakima police, using a Taser or any another tactic to restrain the suspect may have injured the civilians, which is why the officer used a dog.
Suspect Could Not Understand English Commands
However, Sanchez claims Zaragoza wasn't resisting arrest he simply could not understand the officer's commands as he only spoke and understood Spanish. "Any time he was given directions in English, he could not follow it, but when it was translated into Spanish he could," Sanchez said.
However, Sergeant Adams of the Yakima police department released a statement saying that Zaragoza yelled an expletive at the officer in English and the claim that he did not understand the language was "false."
Although Stevens believes the officer was following protocol, the incident is being investigated by a review board, which is standard procedure after any use-of-force incident takes place.