A 25-year-old man sued the Gretna Police Department Tuesday, alleging his civil rights were violated by a police officer who sicced his canine on him without provocation, leading the dog to bite into his groin area and virtually sever his penis.
Cody Melancon, of Gretna, said Tuesday the attack left him sexually dysfunctional. A doctor has recommended sexual enhancement pills and he faces neurosurgery in hopes of restoring the use of his penis, which was almost completely severed by the police dog's bites.
"I don't have any sensation down there," Melancon said. "I can't get an erection. I'm 25 years of age."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, names the police department, Chief Arthur Lawson, Officer Joseph Mekdessie and Officer Roland Kindell, in their official and individual capacities. It alleges the police falsified reports to cover up their actions and violated Melancon's constitutional rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Melancon seeks a jury trial and $31 million for medical and other expenses and for punitive damages.
Melancon's attorney Roger Kitchens said his client also filed a complaint with Gretna police's public integrity bureau and has contacted the FBI.
Lawson did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
The lawsuit stems from a May 30 incident, when Gretna police went to his Monroe Street apartment in the shadow of the Crescent City Connection to arrest Melancon on charges he kicked in someone's front door and hit an occupant - charges he refutes. While he admits he initially tried to hide in the apartment from the officers, he surrendered upon hearing a cop threatened to release the dog inside.
As he knelt on the ceramic tile floor of his small living room and locked his fingers behind his head, Melancon said Mekdessie trumped up an altercation and let his dog, Zin, go.
"He started saying, 'Stop fighting with my dog,' and he released the dog on me," Melancon said Tuesday in his apartment, feet away from where he said the attack occurred. Zin went straight for his groin, and instead of commanding the dog to stop, Mekdessie tried to pull the dog away, causing it to bite more.
"I was in so much shock and pain," he said. "I couldn't do anything. I was just in total shock."
Melancon "sustained severe and debilitating injuries as a result of the actions of (the) defendants, including but not limited to severe mental anguish, loss of sexual function, severe nerve damage, loss of feeling in the genital region, a partially severed penis, tears to his scrotum, a urethra tear and loss of enjoyment of life and consortium, all of which require future medical care," Kitchens wrote.
Zin allegedly has bitten other people "unnecessarily and excessively," and Lawson allegedly did nothing, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Mekdessie and Kindell "harassed" Melancon days before the incident outside a nightclub in Gretna, in which Kindell, Mekdessie and Zin conducted an illegal search of his car. Finding nothing, the officers allegedly claimed Melancon's truck radio was too loud and issued a citation to justify their search. Words were exchanged, and Melancon went home, the suit says.
Days later, according to the lawsuit, Kindell and Mekdessie learned of a warrant for Melancon's arrest and volunteered to help bring him in. They announced their presence outside Melancon's door. Melancon's fianc�e, Ashley Braxton, and their two daughters were present during the arrest. Braxton lied to the officers when she told them Melancon was not there, according to a police report.
Officers said Melancon "refused to follow the K-9 officer's commands," and Zin bit him "in the genital area." Mekdessie, in another report, wrote he heard movement in back of the apartment "as if someone was trying to escape," and then released Zin, who located Melancon "running from the back bedroom toward the back of the apartment, at which time Zin bit the subject in the groin area."
Kitchens says the report is wrong, that Melancon's apartment didn't have a rear door or windows, so he had nowhere to run.
Gretna police emergency medical technicians who were on the scene gave Melancon morphine and transported him to a hospital, where his penis was reattached before he later was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center with resisting arrest and other charges.
Kitchens alleged Mekdessie visited Melancon in jail. "He was calling Cody 'nuts,' and saying 'Yeah, that's my handiwork,'" Kitchens said.
The Jefferson Parish district attorney's office, meanwhile, has charged Melancon with simple battery, resisting arrest, aggravated burglary and obstruction of justice. Braxton has been charged with accessory to aggravated burglary, according to records in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna.