TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jose Manuel Marino-Najera was hiding behind brush in the southern Arizona desert with a nearly 50-pound load of marijuana when a U.S. Border Patrol K-9 found him.
He was arrested, but not before the dog bit him in the arm.
More than a year later, after serving time in prison, Marino-Najera is suing the government over what he says are permanent injuries caused by the dog.
His attorney William Risner filed the lawsuit last week in federal court in Tucson.
It alleges muscles in Marino-Najera’s arm were severely damaged when the Border Patrol K-9 bit him repeatedly during the arrest.
Risner says agents heard Marino-Najera scream for help after the dog latched on to his arm, but they did nothing to stop the attack.
“These guys, they let him chew on his arm, and he’s permanently crippled,” the attorney said. Risner said Marino-Najera, who lives in Mexico, was a mason by trade but can no longer lift many objects or do his job.
A Border Patrol spokesman said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, relies on trained dogs to sniff drugs and find people at checkpoints, ports of entry and in the field.
The incident took place in June 2013 at the Tohono O’odham reservation near Arizona’s border with Mexico.
According to a criminal complaint, an agent came across a group of smugglers, including Marino-Najera, who the agent said was hiding behind brush. Marino-Najera alleges in the lawsuit that he was sleeping under a tree when the dog attacked.
The criminal complaint makes no mention of a K-9.
But Marino-Najera says he was sleeping and didn’t know the agents had spotted him when the dog attacked him and bit his arm repeatedly.
He admitted to carrying nearly 50 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of drug possession. Marino-Najera was sentenced to 180 days in prison but got credit for time served.