Jury awards $1.1 million to man bit by police dog while rescuing cat

Robert Salonga, San Jose Mercury News, June 14, 2017
HALF MOON BAY -- A man who was bitten by a police dog while trying to rescue a friend's cat at a construction site two years ago was awarded $1.1 million Tuesday by a federal civil jury, which ruled that San Mateo County Sheriffs deputies used excessive force in deploying the animal. ... The jury award was issued after two days of deliberations over the case of 64-year-old Richard Earl May Jr., who entered a fenced construction site near Bloom Lane the night of New Years Day 2015 to help his 73-year-old friend retrieve her cat Domino. The feline was heard cat meowing from inside a building on the grounds, and they could find neither security guards on site nor a reachable phone number. So May reportedly trespassed onto the site and triggered a security alarm, which summoned deputies. May alleged in his lawsuit that Deputy Chris Laughlin and two other deputies gave Riggs commands and he first sniffed at May then attacked him after more commands. The police dog bit May's legs, causing injuries that attorney Michael Haddad said took over a year to heal. ... The jury awarded May $1 million in compensatory damages for his injuries and $100,000 in punitive damages. ... This verdict sends a strong message to law enforcement that a police canine is a severe use of force that should be reserved for serious crimes, where officers are truly in immediate danger, civil rights attorney Michael Haddad said in a statement. The community will not tolerate reckless use of a police canine like we saw here.

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