On January 7, Saile Herrera says she was watching her three young children play on a dead-end road in front of the family's home. Her 9-year-old son, Javier Jr., pedaled around outside on his bike.
Eventually, Javier Jr. began biking closer to her neighbor's home across the street — that of Miami Police Department K9 Officer Mario Urrutia. As her son got closer, Herrera says, she heard a commotion and saw a massive German Shepherd sprinting — unleashed and uncollared — from the house. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, she says she watched in horror as the dog lunged at her son, knocked him from his bicycle, and sunk its teeth into Javier Jr.'s back.
Her husband, Javier Sr., sprung into action. She says she watched as he ran over to the dog and tried to rip the canine's head from their son to no avail. Maddox had locked onto the 9-year-old's back. She says Javier Sr. eventually tried to wrap his entire arm around the dog's neck and wrench Maddox away, but that still didn't work. The child continued to scream in agony.
"The struggle with K9 Maddox continued while Javier Jr. was panicked, screaming, and in severe pain as K9 Maddox's jaws were locked on Javier Jr.'s lower back," the suit alleges.
Herrera says the dog remained in attack mode for a full five minutes. At that point, she says, Urrutia finally exited his house in his underwear and started shouting commands at the dog to no avail. Maddox kept biting. Urrutia then gave up shouting and instead just helped Javier Sr. wrench the dog away from the child.
The two men succeeded in removing Maddox's jaws from the boy's flesh, but she says the dog kept its jaws locked on Javier Jr.'s clothing. She says the adults had no choice but to strip the boy's clothing off in order to save him. According to Herrera, Urrutia told the family to run inside to safety because he couldn't control the dog.
"Javier Jr.'s two younger siblings had been screaming and waiting outside the home by the garage door, attempting to seek refuge," the suit says. As Urrutia dragged Maddox into his home — and the dog kept Javier Jr.'s clothing in his teeth — the family left to take the boy to the hospital. While doctors treated Javier Jr., Herrera says, additional MPD officers arrived and spoke to the family.
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Herrera is now suing the City of Miami on her son's behalf for negligence and infliction of emotional distress. Her lawyers did not respond to messages from New Times this week. But the court complaint accuses Urrutia and MPD of failing to properly train the dog or keep Maddox under correct supervision while living at Urrutia's home.
MPD did not respond to a request for comment and has not yet responded in court. As of this past July, Urrutia has been the subject of three citizen complaints since joining the force in 2013 and has been involved in six use-of-force incidents.
The Herreras say their son was left permanently traumatized by the attack. The family says it has begged MPD to remove the dog from Urrutia's home. But the Herreras say the police department told them the dog was staying — and that for several months, they lived next to the dog in fear that it might attack again.
"Defendant's employees indicated that 'there was nothing they could do' and refused to remove K9 Maddox from Ofc. Urrutia's property," the suit alleges.