San Diego to pay $600K to woman attacked by escaped police K-9 in her yard
Jenna Cole and her daughter Charlotte, who was 5 at the time, suffered post-traumatic stress from the January 2021 incident
By David Garrick
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — San Diego is paying out $600,000 to a woman who suffered severe injuries in her own yard when a police dog bit deeply into her lower leg after escaping from its trainer's yard nearby.
Jenna Cole and her daughter Charlotte, who was 5 at the time, also suffered post-traumatic stress from the January 2021 incident. The dog initially tried to attack Charlotte, but she was protected by the netting of a trampoline she was playing on.
The dog then went after her mother, biting all the way down to the bone and causing severe injuries that required significant sutures and scarring, according to city documents.
City officials described the bite as "unintentional" and said the dog escaped his handler's backyard through a gate with a broken latch while the officer was cleaning its city-issued kennel.
A lawsuit filed by the Coles in March calls the bite a "vicious" and "unprovoked attack" and calls the city negligent for how it trained, monitored and caged the animal. The suit also contends such animals should be in secure facilities, not residential neighborhoods.
The suit says the attack happened while Charlotte Cole was jumping on a trampoline within its safety net enclosure, and Jenna Cole was sitting nearby studying.
"The dog leapt onto the trampoline frame and viciously tried to bite and scratch through the netting to attack Charlotte," the suit says. "Unable to get to its target, defendants' trained attack dog also went under the trampoline and attempted to bite Charlotte's feet through the trampoline mat wherever she stepped."
The suit says that Charlotte was terrified and screamed in panic at the dog to go away but that it was trained to pursue its target relentlessly and without distraction.
The dog then gave up on Charlotte and began attacking her mother from beneath the trampoline, "biting ferociously on her ankle through skin to bone and tendon, causing severe pain, bleeding, permanent injury and damage," the suit says.
The incident ended when the Police Department dog handler jumped over the fence into the Cole's yard, went under the trampoline and grabbed the attacking dog by the head, the suit says.
Jenna was left "wounded, bloodied, exhausted and terrified," and Charlotte "cried uncontrollably, emotionally terrorized and traumatized by the vicious attack on her life and her mother," the suit says.
Ten days after the incident, on Feb. 9, 2021, county officials designated the dog "a dangerous dog or public nuisance animal."
The City Council is scheduled to approve the $600,000 settlement Tuesday. It covers diminished earning capacity and medical bills for Jenna Cole and mental health counseling for her and her daughter.
The council previously gave preliminary approval to the settlement in a session closed to the public on Aug. 2.
In a separate settlement, the council is scheduled to approve an $81,000 payout to Jose Valdez for back and shoulder injuries he suffered when a city employee driving a city-owned car rear-ended him in North Park at El Cajon Boulevard and Utah Street in August 2020.
The council previously approved the settlement with Valdez in a session closed to the public on July 26.