A now-former Georgia police officer is facing criminal charges after he allegedly told his K-9 to bite a man during a mental health call.
Michael Esposito, who had worked with Alpharetta’s police department outside Atlanta, was indicted Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and violation of oath by a public officer.
The indictment accused Esposito of “unlawfully” directing his dog to attack Travis Moya outside his home on July 25, 2021.
According to a 911 call obtained by HuffPost, Moya’s stepson had reported Moya “growling” outside, but he informed the operator that no one was in immediate danger and that Moya was not in possession of the family firearm, which was located upstairs.
The stepson then handed the phone to his mom, Moya’s wife, who told the operator not to call in the police but to send an ambulance. She said her husband might need to go to a hospital because he was acting strangely.
Police responded instead and classified the incident as a domestic disturbance, according to an incident report.
Police said that Moya yelled at the officers who arrived at the scene. According to Esposito’s body camera footage, officers attempted to restrain Moya as he started walking back inside his home. As they tried to hold him, Moya asked who had called them, and he was soon on the ground with three officers on top of him.
The footage shows Esposito appearing to instruct his police dog to bite Moya, telling the animal to “get him” and “bite him” while advising the other officers to “look out” and clear the way.
As Moya’s left arm was bitten by the dog and he begged for the attack to stop, he was instructed by officers to put his hands behind his back. Police reports said that Moya had resisted his restraints. The footage shows that even when his arms were cuffed behind his back, the dog continued to bite Moya.
The video then shows Esposito tying a tourniquet for Moya as blood pools from his arm.
Moya was charged with obstruction after the incident, but the case was later dropped. He filed a lawsuit against the city of Alpharetta last year, also naming officers who were at the scene. The litigation is currently ongoing.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Moya reacted to news of the indictment by saying it was a step in the right direction.
Moya told reporters that his arm was “disfigured” from the incident and that he was mentally traumatized, adding that he suffered nightmares and flashbacks.
Moya’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart, alleged that officers intended to use the dog against Moya regardless of whether it was justified. He called it “sad” that the incident was deemed justified after an internal review.
“But that’s why we have this process, and that’s why Fulton County spoke yesterday because they disagree that this was justified,” Stewart said, referring to comments on the police review from local officials Tuesday.
“They disagree that a citizen should be mauled like that to the point where officers have to come with a hose afterwards and hose the sidewalk off because there’s so much blood.”
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