Antonio Garcia-Goff was fast asleep in his white 1998 Toyota Camry one hot summer morning in July 2017, when Phoenix police officer George Davis knocked on his window. Davis was responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle parked in the Moon Valley area of north Phoenix.
Davis asked for the 22-year-old man's ID, but Garcia-Goff, who at the time was homeless and struggling with drug addiction, knew he had a warrant out for his arrest.
The young man had his hands on his head when Davis spotted a stun gun and a knife in the front seat of the car. Davis told Garcia-Goff to step out of the vehicle. Instead, Garcia-Goff rolled up the window, body-cam footage from the Phoenix Police Department shows.
"I'm gonna put a fucking b- " Davis can be heard saying as he pointed his gun at Garcia-Goff before running in front of the vehicle.
"Don't! Don't! Don't!" Davis screams, firing off six shots at Garcia-Goff as he began driving away, steering toward the officer to get around the police cars parked in front of him. After Davis returns to his vehicle, he is breathing heavily and asks aloud, "Fuck, what did I do?"
Police eventually caught up with Garcia-Goff, who is now serving a three-year sentence for aggravated assault in the incident. Davis was cleared by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for the shooting. But a federal lawsuit filed by Garcia-Goff on Monday morning alleges that other Phoenix police officers used excessive force by commanding a dog to attack him after he surrendered.
According to the lawsuit, after Garcia-Goff fled, police ran his plates, identified him, and set out on a four-hour manhunt. Neither the lawsuit nor Garcia-Goff's attorney explained what his warrant was for, and court records do not indicate Garcia-Goff had been arrested prior to his encounter with police in July 2017. But booking information published on Mugshots.com from 2016 indicates Garcia-Goff was booked in Maricopa County in March 2016 for failing to stay at the scene of an accident where there was a death or injury, but it’s unclear if he was charged for the alleged crime.
When Phoenix police caught up with Garcia-Goff the day the officer shot at him, he was hiding in a backyard off North First Street. Garcia-Goff "clearly stopped fleeing as he was under the bench and clearly said to the officers surrounding him, 'I give up,'" the lawsuit states.
That's when, Garcia-Goff claims, Officer McCarthy told the young man, "You're going to wish you said that earlier" and commanded his police dog, Fracken, to attack, "unleashing excessive-deadly force," according to the lawsuit.
The dog bit Garcia-Goff in the throat, arm, and knee. Then, Garcia-Goff alleges, other police officers jumped on him and punched him, telling him he was going to prison. Garcia-Goff was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for the dog bites after his arrest.
Days before his arrest, Garcia-Goff's family had filed a missing persons report with the Phoenix Police Department, said Jennifer Hawkins, a close friend of Garcia-Goff's. "He called his family back home in Maryland every day, so when he didn't call for over a week, his family became very concerned. When they didn't hear from him, they filed a missing persons report," Hawkins told Phoenix New Times.
The bite marks from the dog and the bullet fragments from the officer's gun left Garcia-Goff with visible scars littering his arms and neck, Hawkins said.
“The officers wanted to exact punishment on him for leading them on a four-hour chase," said Elizabeth Tate, Garcia-Goff's attorney, in a phone interview with New Times. "He surrendered. He was no threat, but the officer unleashed the dog on him."
Tate said the lawsuit was filed as a means to keep police officers in check when they blur the lines between what is acceptable force and what isn't in the midst of a chase. Garcia-Goff took a plea deal in the aggravated assault, Tate said, because he didn't want to run the risk of getting a longer sentence.
A Phoenix police spokesperson said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
"By no means does a past record justify force," Tate said. "Innocent until proven guilty is the bedrock of our country. These officers are being judge, jury, and executioner. They're exacting deadly force just because somebody is running, and acts like that threaten our democracy."
Garcia-Goff alleges the incident left him suffering physical and emotional injuries and is demanding a jury to decide on what damages he should be awarded at a trial.
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