Visalia Police Hit With Another Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

A schizophrenic man was in crisis. Police directed a K-9 to maul his face, delayed first aid, withheld information from doctors and tossed him barely dressed in jail without medication, lawsuit says.

VISALIA, CALIF., Nov. 30, 2021 – Visalia Police violated a schizophrenic man’s civil rights when they set a K-9 loose on the unresisting man, whose arms were being held behind his back by Visalia Police officers, then delayed getting him medical care after the dog sank its jaws into his face and neck, according to a federal lawsuit filed today.

According to the lawsuit, the man’s maltreatment continued when officers did not disclose the man’s schizophrenia to doctors who treated him when they finally brought him to a local hospital. They then threw him in jail where his condition worsened as they denied him necessary medication and treatment.

And, the lawsuit says, he was left for two days in just a hospital gown, underwear and shoes, as his mental health deteriorated.

“Jordan’s mother called 911 for help to have her son brought to a hospital.” said V. James DeSimone, the Marina del Rey, Calif., civil rights attorney representing Jordan Gutierrez and his mother Yajaida Keys. “Instead of rendering aid, they had a K-9 do their dirty work, attacking the helpless Jordan Gutierrez as he was being held securely by two Visalia Police officers.”

“Based on our investigation, we contend that the Visalia police department has a policy and practice of using its K-9s to torture mentally ill individuals who are perceived as vulnerable,” DeSimone added.

Gutierrez suffered serious bites to his face and hip. As his mother and four officers watched, “the K-9 dog’s fangs sliced open Mr. Gutierrez’s neck beneath his chin, Mr. Gutierrez’s bottom lip, and his nostril down almost to his top lip. Blood gushed from Mr. Gutierrez’s face,” the lawsuit states.

DeSimone and Keys are holding a press conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, in front of Tulare County Civic Center, 221 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia.

Since the mauling, Gutierrez was left with harrowing physical scars. It also inflicted severe emotional injuries and he now struggles with paranoia, severe anxiety and depression, according to the lawsuit.

In news reports following the Oct. 20, 2020 incident, Visalia Police justified their actions by saying Gutierrez, in the throes of a mental health crisis, tumbled some plastic garbage cans, which they claim constituted obstruction and resisting arrest.

However, a video of the incident reveals that Gutierrez was passive as two police officers approached him and grabbed his arms. Officer Sean Schiebelhut brought his K-9 directly to Gutierrez’s face, commanding the animal to bite the helpless man.

Schiebelhut, the handler of Blazer, the male Belgian Malinois that attacked Gutierrez, is a defendant in the lawsuit. Belgian Malinois have some of the strongest bites among all dogs — about 195 psi of bite pressure, more than enough to break bone or punch through metal.

The city, police chief and three other officers are also named in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

The federal civil rights lawsuit comes just months after the city was sued for the unlawful arrest and injuries inflicted on a mentally disabled man who was walking through a shopping center parking lot across the street from his home.

A copy of the electronically filed lawsuit, video of the unlawful arrest, photographs of Gutierrez’s injuries, and more, are hyperlinked here.

Civil rights attorney V. James DeSimone has dedicated his 35-year law career to providing vigorous and ethical representation to achieve justice for those whose civil and constitutional rights are violated.

Related Media Links:

Telemundo: Policía de Visalia enfrenta nueva demanda tras someter a un hombre con un K9 
ABC: Lawsuit against Visalia police alleges excessive force after K-9 was used on mentally ill man Visalia PD being sued after attorneys say K9 mauled schizophrenic man

Request a Consultation

    13160 Mindanao Way
    Marina Del Rey, CA 90292