The City of San Diego and a City Heights family whose dog was shot and killed by a San Diego police officer has agreed to settle a lawsuit over the shooting.
According to court documents, Alfredo and Socorro Fuentes and the city reached a settlement agreement on November 6 of this month.
The shooting occurred on February 22, 2016. On that night, officer Robert Meiselman was investigating a car theft from the neighboring property. The owner of the stolen car, according to the legal complaint, warned Meiselman that the neighbor's seven-year-old dog, Grizzly, was behind the gate. "Beware of Dog" posters were also posted throughout the property.
But Meiselman entered anyway and knocked on the Fuentes’ door. Grizzly began barking and, says Meiselman, then lunged at him. Meiselman fired three shots, wounding Grizzly.
Alfredo Fuentes came outside shortly after he heard the shots and found Grizzly alive but bleeding. He asked Meiselman and other officers to help the dog but they refused, instead telling Fuentes the name of a pet hospital over five miles away.
Grizzly bled to death two hours later.
The family, with help from the Expand Animal Rights Now nonprofit, filed their lawsuit in November of last year. The lawsuit estimated damages to be $525,000.
Attorneys for the Fuentes family could not confirm the amount until after city councilmembers give formal approval.
In a statement to the Reader, the Fuentes’ attorneys said the family will donate any money to Expand Animal Rights Now.
"Following extensive negotiations between the Fuentes Plaintiffs and the Defendants, the parties reached an agreement to resolve their claims on terms Alfredo and Socorro felt furthered the purpose of having filed the case, despite the difficult circumstances surrounding Grizzly’s death. Any monetary component of the settlement will...be entirely donated to, and used by, EARN. And any such funds would be spent to pursue future cases involving incidents of law enforcement officers shooting family canine companions, where the plaintiffs would not otherwise have the resources to secure the necessary legal representation.
Attorneys Jill Ryther and Julie Kearns say that as part of the settlement, the San Diego Police Department agrees to train its officers on dog behavior as well as non-lethal methods to use when they encounter them in the field.
"From day one, [the Fuentes'] and Expand Animal Rights Now have shared the joint goal of preventing any needless and devastating shooting such as that claimed by the Fuentes family. And the implementation of this type of law enforcement officer training is absolutely a critical step in that direction."