(Be sure to see the UPDATE on the outcome of this lawsuit below.)
Dayzja Griffith was getting ready for work one afternoon last year when she says she opened the bathroom door and was attacked viciously by Narco the police dog.
Griffith was used to K-9 "officers" at the San Tan Valley home she shared with her family.
Her father, Apache Junction police officer Justin Griffith, routinely kept his former K-9 partner, Daimont, at the residence. After Daimont retired last year, Griffith brought home his new partner, Narco.
Now, Griffith is suing her father, the city of Apache Junction, and the city's police department to help pay her medical and legal bills and to ensure better training for K-9 officers and their partners.
According to a complaint filed on Monday in Arizona U.S. District Court, this is what happened:
On October 6, 2016, Officer Griffith called his daughter and asked her to let Narco out of his kennel so he could drink some water and go outside to urinate or defecate.
After she did that, and for no apparent reason, Narco reacted as if he were helping catch a criminal
The dog sunk its teeth into one of Dayzja Griffith's knees, causing her to fall to the floor. Narco then mauled her, biting her thigh, hands, fingers, and breasts.
She tried to push the dog away, yelling commands in Dutch as she'd heard her father do. Her brother, Brayden, called out to Narco and tried to coax him away with toys. Narco climbed on top of the woman and continued his biting attack.
"Finally, Dayzja was able to move herself towards a door," the complaint says. "She crawled and inched herself until she could get close enough to the door and then used it in an attempt to wedge it between herself and the attacking police K-9 until she was able to close it and separate herself from [Narco]."
The complaint doesn't say if the dog hurt her brother, or what Daimont — who also lived at the home — was doing at time of the attack.
The other defendants named in the case include her father's direct supervisor, Captain Troy Mullander, and Apache Junction Police Chief Thomas Kelly.
A 2015 article in the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent, written by Apache Junction's public information officer, Al Bravo, states that the city was trying to secure a grant to obtain another K-9 because Daimont had to be retired "because of advancing age and persistent problems with Valley fever."
The cost of a new dog would be between $7,000 and $8,000, Bravo wrote, and the department needed another $2,500 for an intensive, six-week training course for the new dog and its handler. City officials wanted the public to help with the "unfunded" costs by making donations.
Dayzja Griffith's federal complaint states that her father was in charge of the new dog's handling and training, but Mullander was responsible for making sure Griffith "had the necessary equipment at his personal residence to ensure the police K-9 could be kept in a safe and humane manner," as well as creating and enforcing policies for K-9 officers.
Police officials didn't train or supervise its employees properly in the handling of police dogs, the complaint states. Moreover, before the attack, the police department didn't provide Officer Griffith with the "necessary equipment and materials so that he could provide a secure outside kennel and/or outside area for the police K-9, which would include access to natural or man-made shade, a water supply, and an area to relieve itself."
Because of the lack of training and equipment, Officer Griffith "had no choice but to ask his family to assist" with the animal's upkeep at home.
The woman suffered severe pain and mental anguish in the attack, and was left with "significant scarring and disfigurement," the complaint says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Dayzja Griffith is suing for negligence, liability, and alleged violations of her Fourth Amendment right to be secure "from the use of unreasonable force."
She didn't immediately return a message left for her on social media. Her attorney, Raechel Barrios, wasn't available for comment.
Apache Junction Police Chief Thomas Kelly didn't return a message on Tuesday.
(UPDATE: The case was dismissed in October 2018 following a settlement. Court records state that the parties will pay their attorney fees. William Doyle, the attorney hired by Apache Junction in the case, later told New Times that the city settled the case with Griffith for $30,000. The deal also called for the "full release" of the city and Officer Griffith on any liability, and the case dismissal was "with prejudice," meaning it can't be brought back to court.)