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February 6, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Pierce County to pay $225K to police-dog bite victim

Pierce County will pay a Tacoma man $225,000 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit arising from a May 2011 attack by a police dog while he was out for an early-morning walk.

Chad Boyles reached the settlement with Pierce County, even though the injuries were inflicted by a Lakewood Police Department dog. The dog, K-9 Officer Astor, and his handler, Lakewood Officer Jim Syler, had been called to assist Pierce County sheriff’s deputies in the search for a suspect in a domestic-violence assault.

Boyles, 27, had been in an argument with his brother and had taken a walk to cool off. He walked down a trail into a large, overgrown field near his home when Astor, who was at the end of a 30-foot lead, came over a small rise and attacked.

In an interview last year with The Seattle Times for a story on accidental K-9 bites, Boyles said the dog “came out of nowhere” and seemed to be going for his throat. The dog tore into his right forearm, which Boyles said he had raised to protect himself.

Syler appeared a few seconds later to call off the dog, but not until Boyles suffered a tearing wound to his arm that exposed tendon and bone, and has required surgery.

Astor and Syler have been named in several lawsuits involving serious dog bites.

A federal jury in December rejected a civil-rights lawsuit filed by another man bitten by Astor, Noel Saldana, who suffered a leg wound that has left him with a permanent limp. The jury found that Syler’s use of of the dog was appropriate because Saldana was a suspect in a domestic-violence call and was apparently trying to hide from officers.

Even so, Lakewood paid nearly $35,000 toward Saldana’s medical expenses.

In 2009, a felon named Richard Conley was paid $15,000 after Astor bit  him in the back and arm while he was trying to hide in a bedroom of a house. According to a lawsuit, he required three surgeries and spent nine days in the hospital.

Lakewood Police Chief Brett Farrar said Thursday that the Boyles incident was a mistake and that Syler went to the hospital and apologized afterward. He said deputies were seeking a domestic-violence suspect when a  deputy apparently mistook Boyles for the suspect and called for Syler and his dog to track him into the field.

Astor was retired last year and sold for $1 by the city to Syler, who now owns him as a family pet, the chief said.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: dog bite, lawsuit, Pierce County


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