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The Palo Alto Police Department released a video Tuesday of a Mountain View resident being mistreated by an agency dog in June 2020. This incident resulted in a $ 20 million lawsuit against the city.
The resident, Joel Alejo, is seeking damages from the police department, according to a claim his lawyers have made. Palo Alto City Council discussed the complaint in a closed session on Monday evening. Mayor Tom DuBois said there were no reportable actions following this discussion.
The video, largely from the body cameras of officers Ian Johnson and Nick Enberg, shows law enforcement officers approaching a storage shed in Mountain View at around 2:30 a.m. on June 25. According to the police department, officers entered the courtyard while assisting Mountain View Police in their search for a person charged with domestic violence and kidnapping. They believed he had fled to the residential area.
The camera shows the police approaching the shed, with Enberg and the police dog showing the way. The dog immediately clamped his teeth on Alejo, who was sleeping and hears crying when the dog crushes his leg. Alejo can be seen covering his head with his hands while Enberg and others yell at the dog while he and other officers try to hold the dog back.
After the dog is pulled, which takes about a minute, officers are seen trying to arrest Alejo.
“Stop resisting!” An officer yells at him.
“Who is this?” asks another.
The officers order Alejo to turn around on the other side of the shed and handcuff him while the dog in the background whimpers on the side closest to the entrance.
In a message attached to the video, Palo Alto police said that someone in the house had given the officers permission to search the yard. They believed the man in the shed had been hiding the wanted person, according to the announcement.
“Further investigation revealed that the person was not suspected and was in fact unrelated to the criminal incident that led to the search,” the department said in an announcement.
Alejo, 37, filed a complaint last December stating that he had suffered “extreme pain, bleeding, bruising and other damage”. The complaint also seeks damages for “wrongful imprisonment, wrongful imprisonment, emotional distress, fear, terror, fear, humiliation, loss of security, dignity and pride”.
His complaint claimed $ 500,000 for medical damage, $ 500,000 for loss of earnings, $ 4 million for future general damage, and $ 15 million for “exemplary damage.”
“The Claimant was lawfully in the back yard of his residence at all times and was asleep at the time of the incident,” the complaint stated. “The Claimant was not engaged in any criminal activity at the time of the attack.”
The complaint states that the police did not have an arrest warrant and that the attack was not in defense of a peace officer or any other person.
“Even so, the police K-9 dog was directed and ordered to viciously attack and beat the applicant, resulting in serious and permanent injuries.”
According to Mountain View Police Department, which also released camera footage Tuesday, officials were looking for a man who allegedly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and then drove away with her in a stolen car before pushing her out of the car and taking her phone and run away.
After finding their ex-girlfriend, a 29-year-old Mountain View resident, they found a bag that was used to track down the suspected kidnapper using a dog unit. Assistance was sought from Palo Alto as none of the canine units were available to answer, according to the department’s press release.
Officials from both agencies asked a neighbor in the area if they could search the backyard for the person they were looking for. After the officers reportedly obtained a resident’s consent, they ransacked the back yard and found Alejo in the shed.
Shortly after the police dog bit Alejo, the officers confirmed that he was not the person they were looking for. Alejo was reportedly treated for the bite wound and taken to hospital.
Mountain View police said they later contacted the resident, who told them they did not know that a family member – Alejo – was in the back yard.
On July 17, officials located the suspected kidnapper in the first block of West El Camino Real and arrested him on suspicion of kidnapping, robbery, knowledgeable possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen vehicle.
The Palo Alto Police Department had investigated the incident, although their statement did not state whether any of the officers involved in the incident had been subjected to disciplinary action. The city’s independent police auditor will review the incident and assess the adequacy of the city’s response as per the city’s announcement.
The city declined to indicate if any of the officers had been subjected to disciplinary action, saying it was “unable to comment on matters relating to these types of employees,” referring requests for the city’s review to a future IPA report.