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Santa Rosa settles police dog attack case

Santa Rosa Police K-9 Officer Mike Clark and his police dog Taz. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD FILE, 2010)

KEVIN MCCALLUM,

Santa Rosa has settled for $125,000 a lawsuit brought by a 26-year-old man bitten by a police dog after he was mistaken for a gang member.

A trial in Kyle Biedma’s excessive force lawsuit was about to get underway in U.S. District Court in San Francisco when the city decided to settle the case in February.

The City Council discussed the matter behind closed doors on Feb. 23, but the decision wasn’t announced until Tuesday under a new requirement for the city attorney to publicly report all legal settlements over $50,000. Biedma was bitten in front of his Saracen Road home in April 2013 after police mistook him for a suspected gang member they were searching for.

Officer Michael Clark and his Belgian Malinois named Taz confronted Biedma as the man walked through tall grass on the side of his house. Clark ordered Biedma to the ground, but the man kept walking, according to a police report.

Clark released Taz, who bit Biedma on the arm.

After the incident, police asked prosecutors to charge Biedma with obstructing officers because he did not drop to the ground when ordered. Police claimed the Rancho Cotate High School graduate was behaving like he was going to attack the officer.

That case did go to trial, but jurors returned a not guilty verdict after about an hour of deliberation.

In his civil case, Biedma claimed police acted with “reckless or wanton or malicious motivation.” His attorney, Rex Grady, claimed police charged his client with the misdemeanor crime to protect the city from a costly injury claim.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Rex Grady represented Biedma in the civil case.