BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
The cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View have settled a lawsuit with Joel Alejo, who was attacked by a police dog at an officer’s command while he was sleeping in his backyard.
The settlement was reached on Friday, federal court records show, but the terms weren’t immediately available.
Alejo was attacked around 2:30 a.m. on June 25, 2020, but police didn’t tell the public about what happened. In January, the Daily Post used the California Public Records Act to get a copy of Alejo’s claim seeking $20 million.
Alejo was sleeping in his backyard on the 1800 block of Elsie Ave. in Mountain View while police were searching for a kidnapper. Mountain View police asked for Palo Alto police to bring a dog to help.
Officers entered Alejo’s property through the side gate, and Agent Nick Enberg’s dog came across Alejo sleeping. Enberg ordered the dog in Czechoslovakian to bite — “dirsh” —and he repeated the command over 30 times while Alejo yelled and tried to get the dog off of him.
Alejo turned out not to be the person that police were looking for. He was taken to the hospital with gashes on his leg.
The police released the body-cam video in March again at the request of the Daily Post.
Members of the public expressed outrage to the Palo Alto City Council. They called on the police department to fire Enberg and be more transparent.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he wouldn’t file charges against Enberg.
Alejo sued both cites, arguing that police “engaged in the vicious conduct maliciously, willfully and oppressively” with the intent to harm him.
Last month a judge ordered the parties to discuss a settlement. Lawyers met for nearly four hours on Friday and reached a deal, according to court records.
Lawsuits the city of Palo Alto has settled alleging police misconduct
June 2020 — City of Palo Alto paid $75,000 to Mahmoud Elsayed who was wrongfully arrested for vandalism. The district attorney dropped the vandalism charge and Elsayed passed a lie-detector test. Elsayed claimed officers engaged in racial profiling and Islamaphobia.
November 2019 — City of Palo Alto paid $572,500 to Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident Gustavo Alvarez, who was beaten by then Palo Alto Sgt. Wayne Benitez in an incident caught on video. Benitez is now awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges.
April 2018 — City of Palo Alto paid $250,000 to Tajae Murray, a black Palo Alto High School senior who was mauled by a police dog two outside the 7-Eleven at 401 Waverley St. in 2016.
February 2016 — City of Palo Alto paid $250,000 to Tyler Harney over an August 2013 traffic stop during which his arm was broken. Police claimed that both of the dash cameras that could have recorded the incident were broken at the time. The city settled just before an expert was going to be brought into the case to inspect the cameras to see if any tampering took place.
November 2015 — City of Palo Alto paid $3,000 to Roger Murray, then 85, who said he was pushed around by police and falsely arrested for public drunkenness in 2014. Charges against Murray were dropped.
Lawsuits the city of Mountain View has settled alleging police misconduct
February 2020 — City of Mountain View, County of Santa Clara Department of Family and Children Services; and American Medical Response paid $600,000 to the family of Danielle and Douglas Lother, whose 5-year-old daughter was disrobed by police and examined for sex abuse by an ambulance driver in January 2019.
April 2019 — City of Mountain View paid $325,000 to former police Officer Nicholas Emmerling, who sued after he was fired for going on military leave. He alleged in his lawsuit that police had an illegal quota system for officers.