California man files civil rights lawsuit after police ordered dog to ‘bite’ eight times during 2020 arrest


VISALIA, Calif. — Raymond Rubio was across the street from his home.

He wore an Ecko brand hoodie sweatshirt, gloves and a backpack on the night of Jan. 22, 2020. He was walking through the parking lot of a local supermarket when he was confronted by Officer Marisa Burkdoll.

Burkdoll told Rubio police had gotten calls of a man looking into vehicles. Rubio dismissed the accusation and said the only reason he was being stopped was because of the color of his skin.

“You don’t face racism because you’re not brown,” Rubio told Burkdoll early in the encounter after the officer told him she was mixed race.

Less than eight minutes later, Rubio would be handcuffed and bloodied by dog bites.

The 32-year-old California man has no prior felony convictions and is intellectually disabled, according to his attorney V. James DiSimone. He’s received Supplemental Security Income benefits since childhood, his mother said.

In addition to being physically restrained by Burkdoll, a police K-9 was released on Rubio and told to “bite” eight times, according to body camera video. The dog’s handler, Officer Bill Hansen, gave the repeated orders in Dutch.

Bodycam video from three Visalia police officers captured the arrest. The Visalia Times-Delta, part of the USA TODAY Network, was provided with the footage.

Raymond Rubio on January 22, 2020.

Raymond Rubio on January 22, 2020.

At no point during the video before the physical confrontation did officers tell Rubio he was being detained or arrested.

A civil rights lawsuit was filed by DeSimone against the city of Visalia. The Los Angeles-based attorney represents Rubio and Helen Salinas, Rubio’s mother.

The city, Hansen, and Burkdoll are named in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, California.

During a press conference, DeSimone called the arresting officers “thugs with badges.” He also said his client didn’t do anything to cause the “sadistic” attack.

Officers said they had to use physical force to detain Rubio because he was acting “froggy” and resisted arrest. DeSimone said his client complied with officers’ commands.

A photo of Raymond Rubio's injuries during a January 2020 arrest by Visalia police.

A photo of Raymond Rubio’s injuries during a January 2020 arrest by Visalia police.

“These officers should be disciplined and fired. This is exactly the opposite of how police should deescalate,” DeSimone said. “It’s outrageous how they don’t give him the slightest chance to comply before they unleash this unjustified violence and the cruel way they kept the dog biting him.”

Visalia police Sgt. Celeste Sanchez said the department was aware of the lawsuit.

“Due to the pending suit, the information which can be provided is limited,” she said. Sanchez did release an account of Rubio’s arrest.

Both officers remain on the force.

What the bodycam footage shows: ‘What did I do?’

On that night in 2020, Visalia police received three calls for service from three independent witnesses, Sanchez said.

The callers reported a Hispanic man wearing a black and gray sweater, black gloves, a backpack, and white shoes was “looking into vehicles, acting suspiciously, and appeared as if he was under the influence,” Sanchez said.

Burkdoll was the first to arrive on the scene. Rubio matched the description of the person described in the calls for service, police said.

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“The officer stopped to investigate and had a conversation with Rubio when she observed that he was displaying objective signs and symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance and also believed he was the same person responsible for casing vehicles described in the calls for service,” Sanchez said.

Hansen arrived as Burkdoll asked Rubio to remove his backpack.

A photo of Raymond Rubio's injuries from a January 2020 arrest by Visalia police.

A photo of Raymond Rubio’s injuries from a January 2020 arrest by Visalia police.

Rubio asked why he had to hand over his backpack. In the bodycam footage, Rubio moves his hands toward his backpack straps, but the officer grabs him and throws him to the ground. Burkdoll used her flashlight and fists to subdue Rubio, the bodycam footage shows.

In the video, Rubio can be heard screaming. He repeatedly asks, “What did I do?”

Hansen then retrieved the dog and told Rubio he was going to set the dog loose. At this point, Rubio was on his stomach with Burkdoll trying to handcuff him. He continued to scream and thrash.

He can be heard apologizing to Burkdoll: “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Hansen released the dog on Rubio for more than 90 seconds.

Rubio was taken to a local hospital for treatment. He would later test positive for methamphetamine, Sanchez said.

DeSimone also confirmed a “small” amount of methamphetamine was found in Rubio’s backpack.

‘The police never gave my son a chance,’ victim’s mom says

Rubio suffered a traumatic brain injury and deep bite wounds to his back, torso, left hand and arm, according to the lawsuit. He also suffered “psychological damage” following the incident.

“Before last January, Ray was always a fun person to be around, with a great sense of humor,” Rubio’s mother said in a statement. “He liked telling jokes and making people laugh. He loved being around family and friends and going to the local convenience store. He loved music and dreamed of becoming a singer. He never feared walking freely alone anywhere.”

She added, “All that changed after the police attacked him, hit him in the head, and cruelly commanded the dog to chew on his flesh.”

She said her son now suffers from depression and rarely leaves his room.

“I’ve seen the video,” she said. “The police never gave my son a chance.”

Police and prosecutors disagree.

The case was submitted to the Tulare County District Attorney’s office for review. The DA filed two counts of felony resisting with force or violence, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and under the influence of a controlled substance.

The criminal case is still pending.

Rubio and his attorney are asking the California Office of the Attorney General to investigate the Visalia Police Department’s policy on the use of police canines.

“We are looking for a change in policy,” he said. Rubio is also seeking monetary compensation.

Follow Sheyanne Romero on Twitter @sheyanne_VTD.

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: California civil rights lawsuit: Police used ‘unjustified violence’


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