Former Alpharetta officer to face potential charges in 2021 K-9 attack

Credit: Courtesy Stewart Miller Simmons

Credit: Courtesy Stewart Miller Simmons

A Fulton County grand jury will consider criminal charges against a former Alpharetta police officer in March, according to a notification sent to the city and Officer Michael Esposito by the Fulton District Attorney’s Office in January.

Esposito was the handler of a police K-9 that attacked Travis Moya, who was wounded when arrested outside his home in July 2021. A police review of the incident cleared Esposito and the responding officers of any wrongdoing.

Moya suffered multiple dog bite wounds and a concussion during police response to a 911 call placed by his stepson, who was concerned about his stepfather’s mental state, Moya’s attorney Chris Stewart said less than a week after the incident.

Last July, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges against Moya, which included three felony obstruction charges as well as misdemeanor obstruction resulting from the arrest.

The DA notified Alpharetta in January that a case against Esposito will be presented to the grand jury in March, City Administrator Chris Lagerbloom said during a City Council meeting held Jan. 23.

Esposito did not respond to requests for comments for this story.

Esposito is no longer employed by the city or in law enforcement but contacted Alpharetta seeking help with his legal problems, Lagerbloom said. Esposito left his position in 2021, according to a Go Fund Me fundraising campaign set-up to help with the legal fees.

Alpharetta is also planning to assist Esposito.

During the January meeting, City Council approved a resolution that would allow the city to provide legal assistance to a current or former employee. In addition to the grand jury probe, Esposito is named in a civil suit.

He could potentially receive $10,000 for legal costs from Alpharetta in each case during a calendar year, Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said on Thursday.

Travis Moya’s attorney filed a civil action last July against Esposito, the city of Alpharetta, Police Chief John Robison, Lt. R.A. Splawn and Esposito’s fellow police officers who responded to the 911 call at Moya’s residence. The other officers are J.J. Frudden and Christopher Benfield.

The civil complaint by Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys alleges Moya’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

Alpharetta Police Chief John Robison supported the officers’ actions after an internal review of the Moya incident in August 2021.

“... There was no violation of departmental policy, or federal or state law regarding necessary use of force standards by peace officers,” Robison said in a statement at the time.

A body camera worn by Esposito shows 11 minutes of video from his arrival outside the Moya home, and events that unfolded after more officers arrived. Video includes Moya pinned face-down to the ground by officers and the K-9 named Ares mauling his shoulder.

The civil complaint states, “As reflected on Esposito’s body camera video footage ... when the officers arrived, Plaintiff was lawfully standing at the front of his driveway with his wife ... was not committing a crime, was not acting in a violent or tumultuous manner, and posed no threat of harm to himself, his wife, or any other person.”

The complaint also notes K-9 Ares’ training exercises in early 2021 and alleges that the dog exhibited “uncontrolled aggression,” “ignored handler commands” and bit Esposito.