San Diego police K-9 unit being trained
The City of San Diego is poised to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who was bitten by a police dog while he walking in a La Jolla canyon in the early hours of August 15, 2015.
According to the April 2016 complaint, police encountered San Antonio resident David Aceves in the middle of the night, walking naked through a canyon park in La Jolla. According to police, Aceves, 26, was visibly disoriented. Police officers released their police dog to subdue Aceves. The police dog bit him on the leg, resulting in what doctors called a "large degloving injury," in which a large piece of skin was torn from the underlying tissue. Aceves underwent multiple procedures and was required to stay in the hospital for more than two weeks.
On November 10, 2016, attorneys for Aceves and the city confirmed that a settlement was in the works and more time was needed to reach the final terms. Both sides agreed to submit a request for dismissal to the court no later than December 12.
The upcoming settlement is yet another instance where the use of police dogs in San Diego has been questioned in court.
In September of this year, a federal appellate court agreed to rehear an excessive-force lawsuit against San Diego's police force for siccing a canine on a woman while she slept in her Pacific Beach office. In that case, as reported by Courthouse News Service, Sarah Lowry went out for drinks in Pacific Beach after finishing work. Instead of driving home, Lowry returned to her office to sleep, inadvertently tripping a burglar alarm in the building as she did. Officers arrived at the scene and after not finding any burglars, they released their police canine, Bak. Bak found Lowry sleeping on an office couch and attacked. The dog bit Lowry on the lip, causing a large gash and severe bleeding.
A police officer at the scene, according to the report, later stated that Lowry was "very lucky" Bak did not rip her face off.
A judge on the appellate court wrote that while the use of police dogs serve a needed purpose, the use and severity of injuries should also be considered in such cases.
"In this case we must not rely on the plaintiff's 'luck' that she only ended up bleeding profusely from a cut lip rather than having her whole face 'ripped off' to excuse the conduct that the officer himself recognized could well have resulted in a far more egregious injury," read the majority opinion.
That case is expected to be heard in coming months.
In another case, a homeless man, Stanley McQuery, claimed that an officer unleashed a police dog on him while ordering the dog to "eat him up." McQuery says he felt like he was being treated like a "runaway slave."
That case is now in limbo as McQuery has failed to file necessary court filings.
UPDATE 12/2, 8:40 a.m.
San Diego city councilmembers are expected to ratify the settlement during a council hearing on Tuesday, December 6. According to city documents included in the meeting agenda, the city agrees to pay Aceves $385,000 for the claim with money from the city’s Public Liability Fund. The amount includes court costs as well as attorney fees.