GRETNA, La. --
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges a K-9 officer disfigured a suspect during the execution of an arrest warrant at his Gretna home.
The plaintiff in the case is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and another $25 million in punitive damages.
An attorney representing Cody Melancon filed the civil lawsuit, claiming his client suffered "severe and debilitating injuries" when a K-9 officer named Zin "repeatedly bit down on (Melancon's) genitalia."
The incident happened May 30.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Melancon had been involved in a previous encounter with two Gretna Police Department officers, Roland Kindell and Joseph Mekdessie. Several days later, those same officers served an arrest warrant on Melancon, who had been indicted on charges of aggravated burglary and simple battery.
That time, the lawsuit claims, the officers were accompanied by backup units and by Zin, a Belgian Malinois who joined the department in 2010. The warrant was executed at the apartment where Melancon lives with his fiancee and two children.
Zin is a Belgian Malinois and certified member of the Gretna Police Department's K-9 team.
The lawsuit claims that Melancon, 25, offered no resistance to the officers and was on his knees with his hands raised when "suddenly and without warning or provocation, defendant Mekdessie released Zin."
The documents, obtained by the WDSU I-Team, detail an alleged attack that included repeated bites to the groin and genitals.
Melancon was taken to University Hospital for treatment and was later booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center on charges that include resisting arrest. He has since bonded out and is awaiting trial.
"This is the worst thing that has happened to me in my life," Melancon told WDSU. "I experienced a horrific deal. It was the worst thing I have experienced in my life."
Melancon said the damage is permanent, with nerve and tissue damage that has affected his sex life.
Roger Kitchens, who represents Melancon, blames not the dog, but its handlers and the department.
"We are trying to make sure these cops don't do this to anyone else," he said.
But Gretna officials -- while acknowledging that an internal investigation is ongoing -- stand behind the officers. Police Chief Arthur Lawson told WDSU the lawsuit was frivolous.
"Our K-9 dogs are nationally certified and yearly accredited," he said. "One of the things we do is believe in training with our department.
"The individual involved here was a convicted felon who had -- or was actually wanted for -- felonies, and had a history of violence."
Zin remains on active duty, along with the two officers.
Kitchens said he intends to pursue matters not only through civil court, but with a federal investigation.
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