To view the dog attack, here’s the video Palo Alto police released. And here’s a link to the eight videos Mountain View police released. Here is Joel Alejo’s initial claim against the city of Palo Alto and a later claim.
By the Daily Post staff
Palo Alto Police Agent Nick Enberg, who was handling the dog that attacked an innocent Mountain View man in his backyard, also was one of the officers named in a civil suit accusing police of allowing a police dog to maul a Palo Alto High School student.
The student, Tajae Murray, and his family were paid $250,000 by the city to drop their lawsuit over the April 7, 2016 attack.
It began when a clerk at the 7-Eleven at Waverley Street and Lytton Avenue called police to report a group of teenagers with a BB gun. Several police cars went to Bryant Court, where Murray and his friends at 7-Eleven were seen earlier in the day.
One of the teens was carrying a BB gun, but it was never established in court whether it was Murray.
According to Murray’s mother, Alacia Hafner, a police dog jumped out of a car window and attacked Murray while officers held the teen down, allowing him to bleed for some time and pointing a gun at him even though he was fully cooperative and hadn’t committed any crimes.
Murray was never charged with any crime, Hafner said, and the officers falsely arrested her son.
The family hired an attorney who sued then-interim police Chief Ron Watson and officers Enberg, Bradley Young, Marcus Barbour, Todd Whitehurst, Marianna Villaescusa, Khalil Tannous, Daniel Fino and Paul Burgio.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, claimed that police knew before the attack that the dog was “dangerous, vicious and was capable of committing such an attack on a person.”
Because the city settled, the case didn’t go to trial, so the public never got an opportunity to hear the officers explain their actions under oath.
“The settlement is a compromise resolution that serves the interest of the city and the plaintiff,” City Attorney Molly Stump said when the city settled the case in 2018.
Enberg has been involved in other noteworthy cases.
• Enberg was one of two officers who, on Christmas Day 2015, shot and killed William Raff outside a group home for mental patients at 652 Forest Ave. The District Attorney cleared Enberg of any wrongdoing in that incident, saying that Raff, who was wielding a 9-inch kitchen knife, wanted to commit suicide by threatening officers so they would shoot him.
• Enberg was one of eight officers named in a $10 million lawsuit Julio Arevalo filed after he was violently arrested by Police Agent Thomas DeStefano outside Happy Donuts on July 10, 2019.
The suit, which is pending in U.S. District Court, said that “Officer Enberg, like Agent DeStefano had done just moments before, utilized a wrist-lock arrest control technique on Julio’s wrist to sadistically inflict pain and harm on the helpless Julio,” the original complaint in the lawsuit said. “…Enberg was the second officer to abuse this technique that is reserved for people who are unrestrained and actively resisting (not individuals who are critically injured and have their hands secured in locked handcuffs behind their back).” The portion in the parenthesis is from the lawsuit.
Enberg is in the news now because he was the officer who was handling a police dog that attacked a man in his Mountain View backyard in a case of mistaken identity.
Mountain View police asked Palo Alto to send a canine unit to Mountain View to help them search for a kidnapper. Officers including Enberg and his dog entreated a house on Elsie Avenue, where the canine found and attacked Joel Domingo Alejo, who was asleep in his backyard. It turned out that Alejo was not the suspect police were seeking. Police took Alejo to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Neither police department put out a press release about the incident, and the attack remained under wraps until the Post discovered in December that Alejo’s attorney had filed claims against both cities seeking $20 million.
If a city rejects a claim, the claimant is entitled to sue the cities in Superior Court. Mountain View and Palo Alto have rejected Alejo’s claims.
Correction: A previous version gave the wrong rank for Enberg. He’s a police agent. The error was made because of incorrect information provided to the Post by a city spokeswoman. Also, a previous version indicated that the city of Palo Alto hadn’t decided whether to reject Alejo’s claims. In fact, the city did reject them in August and January, though the denials were not publicized by the city.