Lakewood sued over dog bite

Staff writerOctober 30, 2013 

A lawsuit against the city of Lakewood and a Lakewood police officer by a man who says he was unnecessarily mauled by a police dog will go forward, despite an attempt by the defendants to have the claims dismissed in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said in his decision Friday that whether the dog’s use of force was reasonable is a question for a jury, as is whether plaintiff Noel Saldana’s constitutional rights were violated and whether the dog’s handler is liable in the incident.

Saldana says police dog Astor attacked him, even though he complied when K-9 handler James Syler told him to drop to the ground in June 2010 as he was walking along a sidewalk.

Police had responded after Saldana’s wife, also a plaintiff in the suit, called 911 to say her husband wouldn’t leave their home when she asked.

Saldana lost range of motion in his knee, walks with a limp and has scarring on both his legs as a result of the attack, the suit says. No criminal charges were filed against him.

According to court records, the city says it reviews all dog bites, but Leighton wrote that it isn’t clear based on evidence presented whether that system shows if dog teams are acting unconstitutionally.

The two sides give wildly different accounts of the incident, the judge said.

Lakewood officials have said they will not comment on pending litigation.

According to a Seattle Times investigation, Astor has been the subject of four lawsuits in four years, all related to similar injuries, and was still on the job with officer Syler as of March.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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