Moral Low Ground


Video: Henderson, Nevada Police K-9 Mauls Infant Daughter of Innocent Man

Ayleen Arenas (KSNV screen grab)

Ayleen Arenas (KSNV screen grab)

Police in Henderson, Nevada have released dashcam video of a January incident in which K-9 officers unleashed a police dog that mauled the 17-month-old daughter of an innocent man.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports officers were searching for a man they believed was involved in a January 30 robbery at a local health food store in a shopping center off Eastern Avenue just south of the 215 Beltway. The suspect was described as a black male wearing a black t-shirt and driving a red sport utility vehicle.

Officers arriving at the scene saw movement in the SUV and called in a K-9 unit before ordering a man inside to roll down his windows and stick his arms out. Arturo Arenas-Alvarez, who was in the vehicle with his infant daughter Ayleen Arenas, does not understand English well and exited the SUV before raising his hands. Officers quickly realized Arenas-Alvarez was not the robbery suspect, as he was not black but Latino and was not wearing a black t-shirt.

“That’s not him, dude. That’s not a black man in a black shirt,” one officer can be heard telling another in the video.

An officer can be heard politely telling Arenas-Alvarez that they were looking for a robbery suspect and apparently had the wrong man. “They thought that you were involved in a robbery,” an officer says in the video. “You don’t look like the person, so it’s OK now, OK?”

However, Arenas-Alvarez and his baby daughter were far from OK, as K-9 Sgt. James Mitchell arrived on the scene with a Belgian Malinois dog. Mitchell told officers headed toward the SUV with guns drawn to back off, and a voice is heard saying, “anybody inside that car, stand up now… sending a police dog in.”

By the time Arenas-Alvarez understood what was happening, it was too late. Mitchell released the dog into the vehicle, where little Ayleen was strapped into her car seat.

“My baby,” Arturo Arenas-Alvarez can be heard pleading with officers in broken English. “I’ve got my baby.”

An officer shouted: “There’s an infant in that car! There’s an infant in that car!”

Again, it was too late. Ayleen can be heard shrieking in agony as the police K-9 mauled her, sinking its sharp teeth into her tiny arm. She suffered nine puncture wounds and abrasions. A furious Mitchell can be heard in the video blasting his fellow officers. “God damn, guys, you gotta fucking tell me,” he said.

“We don’t know. He doesn’t speak English,” an officer replied. Officers repeatedly noted that the incident could have been much worse.

“The last forearm, the guy didn’t have anything left but bone,” Mitchell said, claiming that the dog has a “soul” and realized the infant was not a threat.

“Thank God the dog’s got a soul,” Mitchell is heard saying in the video. “If anybody ever says they don’t, there’s an example that they do.”

When officers talked to the owner of the health food store, they realized there had been no robbery attempt.

Arenas-Alvarez told KSNV that he didn’t understand what was happening as he, an innocent man, was held at gunpoint by police.

“I was in shock. I didn’t know what was happening until police told me they were looking for a robbery suspect,” he said. “I don’t understand why it happened. I believe they are suppose to be trained for this situation. I practically didn’t see any trained officers.”

Arenas-Alvarez also said his daughter was traumatized by the attack.

“My daughter wakes up many times in the middle of the night scared,” he said “She occasionally wakes up crying.”

The Review-Journal reports the city of Henderson agreed to pay $13,000 to settle a legal claim on behalf of the victim. After legal costs, $8,537.69 remained for Ayleen. Those funds cannot be accessed without a court order.

In a statement, Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers said his officers were responsible for the mauling.

“The dog may have been used too quickly and there could have been additional communication among officers prior use,” the chief said.

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