Palo Alto to Pay $250,000 to Teen Bitten by Police K9

PALO ALTO — The city will pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a black teenager’s civil rights were violated two years ago when he was attacked by a police dog, attorneys said.

TJ Murray, who was 16 at the time, was repeatedly bitten by a Palo Alto Police Department dog on the night of April 6, 2016, said his San Francisco-based attorney David Helbraun. His mother, Alacia Hafner, filed a civil rights lawsuit on his behalf the following year.

Helbraun said Murray had visited a downtown 7-Eleven with some friends, and a clerk called police because he saw a teen carrying a BB gun. Officers who responded to the call stopped Murray at gunpoint a few blocks away at Bryant Street and Bryant Court.

“While standing with his hands held high above his head, the police dog jumped out of a squad car window and attacked the boy, severely injuring his right thigh and hip,” Helbraun said.

The civil rights lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, claimed officers stood around and watched without taking steps to protect Murray from the canine.

“A squad car dashcam video recorded my client’s horrific screams as the police canine mauled his leg,” Helbraun said, “causing permanent physical and mental scars.”

Among other allegations, the suit said Murray was subjected to excessive force and illegal search and seizure. It also accused the police department of violating the Ralph Act, which prohibits violence or threats of violence based on an individual’s race or color.

No charges were ever brought against Murray.

The Palo Alto City Council approved the quarter-million-dollar settlement on March 26.

Asked for comment on the city’s decision to settle the lawsuit, City Attorney Molly Stump said, “The settlement is a compromise resolution that is in the interest of the city and the plaintiff.”