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Hayward to Pay $1.5 Mln for Wrongful Death From Police Dog Bite

The City of Hayward up in Alameda County has agreed to settle a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit with the family of an 89-year-old man who died as a result of complications from an apparently completely unprovoked police dog attack. The city will pay the man’s family $1.5 million in compensation for being savagely bitten by a K9 officer while he was innocently puttering around in his back yard.

According to reports, three police officers and a K9 were investigating an alleged armed robbery at a local Domino’s Pizza. The dog encountered a scent trail leading to a nearby industrial park, which happens to share an eight-foot-high wall with a mobile home park where the victim lived. Shortly before 11:00 p.m., the officers reportedly lifted the dog over that wall and commanded it to keep tracking the suspect. Instead, the dog encountered the innocent man.

The dog sank its teeth into the elderly man’s left calf and dragged him across the ground. The bite left a “gaping hole” in the man’s calf muscle, according to the lawsuit. A few days later, the man developed gangrene in the wound and his leg had to be amputated above the knee. He never fully recovered from the incident, however, and two months later, he died in a rehabilitation center.

This is a shocking story, but perhaps even more troubling is that the city denied any responsibility. While admitting it was a “difficult” case, the city claimed that the dog did exactly as it was commanded. To explain why a well-trained dog would attack a completely innocent person on his own property, the city apparently claimed that the elderly man must have already been unconscious before the attack and was lying in the bushes behind his home, leading the dog to mistake him for the suspect. The family’s attorney called that story “preposterous,” and there was no evidence the man had been unconscious.

Moreover, this particular dog has a history of biting innocent bystanders during police investigations. The family sued the city, claiming the incident violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and that the officers subjected him to unnecessary force. Finally, they claimed, it was the almost immediate infection from the dog bite that cost this man his life.

Ultimately, the city decided to settle the case before trial. Hayward will pay $250,000 of the $1.5-million wrongful death award, and the remainder will be paid by the city’s insurer.

Source: Hayward Daily Review, "Hayward to pay $1.5 million to settle police dog attack suit," Rebecca Parr, July 17, 2013

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