A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer is facing charges of cruelty to animals after he allegedly lifted a drug-sniffing dog over his shoulder and slammed it on the ground while working at the Mariposa Port of Entry.
Following an internal investigation by CBP of Officer Edgard Garcia, 39, of Nogales, the County Attorney’s Office on Nov. 6 charged him with one Class 6 felony count of cruelty to a working or service animal and one Class 1 misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17 at Nogales Justice Court.
The charges stem from an incident on Feb. 15 in which a CBP officer reportedly witnessed Garcia pick up the dog, Veda, by his choke chain, “pull the dog up over his shoulder, and then slam the dog down on its side onto the concrete,” according to the investigative report filed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The officer described Garcia’s actions as “quite aggressive” and “excessive.” The incident was recorded on two video cameras operated by CBP, which shows “all four legs of K9” were in the air when Garcia slammed it on the ground, the report states.
Garcia’s attorney, Louis Fidel of the Tucson law firm Piccarreta Davis, said he was confident Garcia will be “totally vindicated.”
“I feel strongly that Garcia is not guilty,” Fidel said by phone Friday afternoon.
When asked if he planned to remove the case to federal court, since Garcia is a federal officer accused of committing a crime while conducting official duties, Fidel said it is one of the options he is exploring, but he has not yet decided.
“Garcia has been on paid administrative leave since Nov. 26, and subsequently will be placed in a non-pay status pending adjudication of his court case,” according to a statement issued by CBP Friday afternoon.
The DHS report stated Veda was “officially retired from government service and adopted by another canine officer.”