SANTA ROSA, Calif. -
Video released this week shows Sonoma County sheriff's deputies release a police dog attacking a Marine Corps veteran who was wrongly detained for suspicion of a carjacking.
The sheriff's department acknowledged in narrated body camera footage that the veteran injured by the dog and taken into custody was not the carjacking suspect that deputies had been seeking. In the end, they were able to arrest a man who they later alleged is the right carjacker.
Sgt. Juan Valencia did not extend any apology for the mistaken detention or the dog attack surrounding the initial arrest of Adam Gabriel, 40, of McKinleyville (Humboldt County) when asked by KTVU, though he did wish him a "speedy recovery."
Gabriel is an honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran and military policeman, his lawyer said.
Deputies believed Gabriel might be a carjacking suspect on June 2 and ended up releasing a K-9 to subdue him. He went to two hospitals to be treated for the injuries from the dog's bites.
"Three deep puncture wounds and one tear into his right bicep," said Gabriel's attorney, Izaak Schwaiger. "For a time, Adam was in danger of losing his arm. (There was) significant internal bleeding."
Now, Gabriel plans to file a lawsuit over what he describes as an excessive use of force.
"The deployment of the K-9 was unequivocally malicious and sadistic and served no legitimate law enforcement need," Schwaiger said.
The video shows deputies stopping Gabriel on Portal Street and Primero Court in Cotati on suspicion of a carjacking.
They had stopped him, deputies explained in the video, because he was driving a green Subaru, which was similar to a car involved in an armed carjacking that occurred nearby.
In that case, an unidentified victim had let a man, later identified as 35-year-old Rajesh Suman from Antioch, test drive his black Jaguar, when Suman allegedly pulled a gun on him and took his car.
The victim called 911, telling dispatch that the carjacking suspect had driven a green Subaru Forester to the test drive and parked it near where they met.
About 15 minutes after the 911 call, Gabriel happened to be driving two blocks away, deputies said.
The alleged armed carjacker had fled in the stolen black Jaguar. But deputies were also looking for the green Subaru he had abandoned when they came upon Gabriel in a green Subaru Outback, Valencia confirmed in an interview this week.
His vehicle "matched the make, model and color of the car driven by the carjacking suspect," the sheriff's office said.
The carjacking victim also mistakenly identified Gabriel's car as the same one Suman had driven.
Body camera video footage showed that the deputy instructed Gabriel to step out of the car and walk towards him.
Gabriel is seen sitting in his car for several minutes while deputies order him to get out. They tell him they are investigating a carjacking, while Gabriel can be heard protesting that he hasn't done anything.
One deputy warned Gabriel that he would release his K-9 if he did not follow instructions. The K-9 can be heard whining in the background, waiting to be let out of the patrol car.
The officer spoke to Gabriel for over six minutes before he got out of the car.
Finally, Gabriel exited the Subaru and walked towards the deputy with his arms up.
However, deputies commanded Gabriel to crawl towards them. Instead, he dropped to his knees, holding his hands up in the surrender position.
At that point, a deputy deployed his dog to run toward Gabriel, the video shows.
WARNING GRAPHIC: Deputies slam man's head into car, tase him
The dog can be seen jumping on Gabriel, who rolls on the ground, screaming in pain. Gabriel cries out that the dog has bit into his bicep. Deputies put Gabriel in handcuffs as he can be heard crying out: "What crime have I committed? I am a Marine Corps veteran and I have committed no crime."
Just before midnight, Suman drove by the scene in the stolen Jaguar, and deputies arrested him on the original carjacking charge, along with possession of a stolen vehicle and drug charges, the sheriff's office said.
Despite that, deputies Gabriel was booked on a resisting arrest charge, though later released with a citation.
"Sheriff's staff called him a behavioral problem and locked him in solitary," Schwaiger said.
At the end of the video, the sheriff's office admitted that Gabriel was not "associated with the carjacking."
Valencia also said that the deployment of the K-9 is under internal investigation.
This is not the first time that Sonoma County sheriff's deputies have harmed a person in a mistaken arrest over a carjacking.
In 2019, deputies tried to stop David Ward in Petaluma for driving what they believed was a stolen car.
It turned out that Ward was driving his own car – it had been stolen but he had found it and was returning home.
Ward did not immediately get out of the car when deputies ordered him to; his mother, Ernestine Ward, said that was because her son was disabled.
When Ward didn't immediately comply with orders to put his hands up and get out of his car, he was beaten, shocked with a Taser and choked by deputies until he died, according to video at the scene and the coroner's report.
One of the deputies involved, Charlie Blount, quietly retired two years ago, although the sheriff had announced he wanted to fire him.
Ward's mother has filed an excessive force suit against the Sheriff's Office.