NOGALES, Ariz. - A 15-year-old Arizona high school student is recovering after being bitten by a police dog that somehow got out of a patrol vehicle.
The dog's handler and two other officers were putting on a gun safety presentation at Nogales High School on Thursday when the dog got out, police Capt. Heriberto Zuniga told the Nogales International. Students suddenly ran into the classroom to tell them the dog was on the loose.
The handler ran out and secured his German shepherd. The girl who was injured was taken to a hospital with bites and scratches but wasn't seriously hurt.
Zuniga believes "somebody opened the door allowing the dog out of the vehicle," a 2011 Ford Expedition specially outfitted as a canine unit that was parked about 15 feet away from the classroom. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office is investigating.
The doors on the SUV are normally locked and officers were perplexed how a door could be opened from outside the vehicle, Zuniga said. The Expedition was sent to a company in Tucson for inspection, and technicians discovered a fuse in the spring-loaded electronically controlled door had failed. It was replaced.
"Our first concern is the girl," Zuniga said. She had bites to the arms and scratches on the lower back, but both Zuniga and Principal Judith Mendoza-Jimenez said the teen was "OK."
"We were extremely lucky. The dog is trained to bite and pull," he said. "That didn't happen. It appears in this case the dog realized the girl did not pose a threat."
Mendoza-Jimenez said, "It was an isolated incident. (The dog) got out of the car. We don't know how. The girl saw the dog coming and she started running so the dog attacked her. Once she was on the ground the dog let her go."
So far, nobody is confessing to having opened the door, "but we're hoping that through interviews, the sheriff's investigators will get some leads," Zuniga said.