Twenty-seven-year-old Chad Boyles of Pierce County was out for a late night walk when he was attacked by a Lakewood Police K-9 named Astor.
Boyles said that the dog “started chewing and ripping at my wrist, trying to get a grip on my neck.” Boyles, a mechanic who makes airplane parts, said he felt powerless as listened to the big black dog chewing into muscles and tendons.
Boyles wasn’t the man police were after. He didn’t match the description either. Boyles is Caucasian and police were looking for a Hispanic male suspected in a domestic violence case.
A year before Boyles was attacked, it happened to Noel Saldana. Saldana was suspected in a domestic violence assault on his wife. Saldana was never charged, but he claims Astor’s police handler, Officer James Syler, allowed the dog to chew on him for so long he nearly lost his leg.
Saldana said he heard Officer Syler telling the dog repeatedly to “get him boy, get him boy, while the dog was chewing on the leg.”
Boyles and Saldana are both suing, alleging poor training and oversight of Lakewood’s K-9’s and a pattern of excessive force by Officer Syler and Astor.
“The City of Lakewood denies the allegations, but the city council recently approved a resolution to sell Astor as “surplus property” to Officer Syler. The price? One dollar.
So far the only reason given for the sale is that Astor is no longer serviceable as a police dog. No one at either city hall or the police department would explain why.
It’s not unusual for retiring K-9’s to be sold to their police handlers. But Astor has been named in four lawsuits against the city. One was dismissed, one settled and two are set for trial.
Saldana’s case is scheduled for trial on December 9th. A federal judge recently rejected efforts to dismiss the case. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma said there was enough evidence that Officer Syler had used excessive force in deploying Syler, that the case should go on to trial.
Brent Champaco, Communications Manager for the City of Lakewood said the mayor, city council and city manager were all unavailable to comment on the sale of Astor or the allegations of excessive force.
After KING 5 exposed the pattern of injuries and complaints last February, Police Chief Bret Fararr defended the K-9 team on KIRO radio. Farrar called Astor one of the department's best tracking dogs. The chief did not respond to KING 5’s request for an interview back then, or today.