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Mother bitten by a San Diego Police K9 that got loose to get $600,000 from city

The dog escaped his yard, ran across an open field, jumped over a backyard fence, and tried to attack the woman's 5-year-old daughter.
Credit: Superior Court of California court doc
Representation of a Belgian Malinois in attack mode and looks similar to the way defendants’ dog “Aero” looked when it was attacking plaintiffs

SAN DIEGO — On September 20, San Diego City Council is expected to approve a $600,000 settlement to a mother who was bit repeatedly by a San Diego Police K9 after the dog jumped over her backyard fence and tried to attack the woman's 5-year-old daughter.

The attack occurred in January 2021. On that day the mother, whose name will not be disclosed due to privacy concerns, was in her backyard watching her daughter jump on her trampoline. 

A short distance away, on the other side of a vacant lot, San Diego Police K9 Officer Romiro Rodriguez was cleaning out his police dog, Aero's, kennel in his backyard.

Aero, according to a lawsuit obtained by CBS 8, ran from the yard and spotted the 5-year-old jumping on her trampoline. Aero darted across the open field, and jumped over the backyard fence in, according to the complaint, "an attempt to kill" the young girl.

Credit: Superior Court of California court doc
Representation of a Belgian Malinois in attack mode and looks similar to the way defendants’ dog “Aero” looked when it was attacking plaintiffs

Reads the lawsuit, Aero "leapt onto the trampoline frame and viciously tried to bite and scratch through the netting to attack [the girl]. Unable to get to its target, the attack dog went under the trampoline and attempted to bite the girl's feet through the trampoline mat wherever she stepped."

Aero, however, was unable to latch on to the 5-year-old and turned his attention to the girl's mother.  

"Aero attacked...from beneath the trampoline, biting ferociously on her ankle through the skin to bone and tendon, causing severe pain, bleeding, permanent injury, and damage."

After some time, the lawsuit says Officer Rodriguez finally arrived at the home and managed to pull Aero off of the woman and remove him from the property.

According to the lawsuit, after the attack, the County of San Diego designated Aero as a "dangerous dog or public nuisance animal." Despite the designation, the dog was allowed to stay at Officer Rodriguez' home, next door to the woman and her daughter.

"“Aero” has been and continues...to live with Romiro Rodriguez next door to plaintiffs, posing a constant threat for another violent attack and thereby further terrorizing plaintiffs, provoking a constant state of heightened fear and hypervigilance, and depriving plaintiffs of the quiet enjoyment and safety of their home, including the inability to relax and play in their own yard for fear of another attack."

San Diego Police Department did not respond to questions from CBS 8 about whether or not Aero was removed from duty.

City Attorney Fails To Respond to the Lawsuit

And while taxpayers will have to foot the $600,000 settlement, it is a small portion of what the city could have paid.

According to the court's website, as well as multiple court filings, the City Attorney's Office failed to respond to the lawsuit, leaving the city open to a proposed default amount of $4.6 million dollars.

It is the second time in several months that the city attorney narrowly avoided defaulting for failing to respond to lawsuits. 

That other case involved a 74-year-old woman who sued the city after she stepped into a pothole and broke her ankles. After the city failed to show up to court, a judge awarded the woman $900,000. The city later appealed the award and a judge has since allowed the city another shot at defending the case.

Nearly the same plot played out in the dog bite case.

According to court documents, the woman's attorney served their lawsuit on the city of San Diego on April 1, 2022. That day a "mentee" with the city was working at the city clerk's desk. 

Reads the city's court filing, "[The worker] was filling in at the front counter that day due to two Deputy City Clerks calling out sick. [She] was unfamiliar with legal documents and did not know the procedure of the Clerk's Office when a Summons and Complaint is served. [S]he placed the documents in the City Clerk basket, which contains the copies the Clerk's Office is to retain and file. She mistakenly believed that was the proper procedure after receiving those documents."

More than a month went by without any word back from the City Attorney's Office. In May 2022, the woman's attorneys filed a motion for the city to pay $4.6 million in damages.

Less than a month later, the city filed its first motion to set aside the default judgment. 

In July of this year, Superior Court Judge Carolyn Caietti agreed to set the award aside and ordered the two sides to try and settle the case. 

That settlement of $600,000 now heads to the city council for final approval.

CBS 8 reached out to the City Attorney's Office, as well as the Mayor, and SDPD for comment on the settlement and City Attorney's Office's failure to respond to the lawsuit.

None of the departments have responded as of the initial publishing of this story.

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