A Palo Alto mother has filed a lawsuit against the city and the Police Department for civil rights violations after her teenage son was bitten by a police dog, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
The teen, identified in the lawsuit by his initials, T.M., is African-American and was 16 years old at the time. He was allegedly mauled by a police dog while officers stood by and watched, according to the civil complaint. The teen suffered cuts, lacerations and scrapes on his body and deep puncture wounds to his legs and hands.
The boy's mother, Alacia Hafner, filed the case on May 2 on behalf of her son, who is still a juvenile. It alleges Fourth Amendment violations for police use of excessive force and unlawful search and seizure.
The lawsuit also alleges violations of California civil rights laws against hate violence and guaranteeing protection from threats, intimidation, coercion and interference with an individual's constitutional rights. Other claims include assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and violations of the state dog bite statute.
The teen was walking or standing with friends on April 7, 2016, at about 2 a.m. at the corner of Bryant Street and Bryant Court. Police arrived with their sirens on and stopped their squad cars at the two corners where the teens were located, according to the civil complaint.
An officer allegedly pulled up to the boy with her gun drawn. The boy allegedly had his hands raised in the air, did not run and was compliant, the lawsuit claims. He did not have any warrants and was not on probation or parole. A police dog ran out of the back seat of an officer's vehicle and allegedly attacked the boy, according to the complaint. The teen was eventually taken to a hospital for treatment and was arrested, but no charges were filed.
The complaint does not mention why he was arrested. Palo Alto police Sgt. David Lee said on Wednesday that he could not release any information about the case.
The lawsuit claims there was no reasonable suspicion that the teen had committed any crimes before he was detained and there was no probable cause to believe that he had committed any crimes before his arrest. There was also no good cause to exert force, much less the amount of force used against him, the lawsuit alleges.
As a result of the dog attack and his injuries, the teen has continued to experience emotional trauma and physical pain, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit singles out the City of Palo Alto, interim Chief of Police Ron Watson, and officers Bradley Young, Marcus Barbour, Todd Whitehurst, Marianna Villaescusa, Khalil Tannous, Daniel Fino, Paul Burgio and Nicholas Enberg. It does not specify an amount for damages, but an Oct. 4, claim filed with the city asked for damages in excess of $500,000. The city later rejected the claim.
The complaint alleges that the police department does not properly train its officers regarding excessive use of force and that its dogs are trained in bite-and-hold techniques that cause greater injury when subduing individuals suspected of crimes.
Officials at the City Attorney's Office said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit. A request for comment has not been returned by Hafner's attorney, Bob Khakshooy, of Beverly Hills.