Peppered, pounded, pizza shop owner seeks big SLO dough
July 17, 2008
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
San Luis Obispo businessman Jeff Milne, home after a long day baking and serving at his Babbo’s Pizzeria on Santa Rosa, was surprised when he looked through a window and saw police officers at his door, but not worried… despite the fact they were leveling weapons at him.
After all, by his own description, Milne is a law-abiding man and a supporter of law enforcement. He had just kicked off his shoes and shirt in July 2007 and was settling down to watch television when four cops descended on his home at 366 Christina and banged on the front door. Milne readily admitted the officers, asking, “Hey, what’s going on?”
According to a claim filed by lawyers for Milne, the restaurateur was grabbed and patted down while he held his hands in the air. One officer found a small, folded pocket knife in Milne’s back pocket, shouted “Knife!” and immediately pepper-sprayed Milne in his face. He was wrestled to the ground and pinned by one officer’s knee while the others punched him, he said. His wrists were cuffed behind his back. Then he was hauled roughly to his feet, causing additional injury, he now alleges.
The cops huddled; this house call apparently was not what they had been expecting. Acting on a tip from a neighbor’s 10-year-old girl about a man forcibly entering the house, the officers – three from the city of San Luis Obispo, another from Cal Poly campus police – later would testify that they were prepared to confront a burglar. Instead, they found the homeowner, Milne.
After the cops had conferred among themselves, Milne was booked into County Jail, charged with resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. He spent the night behind bars, dressed only in socks and jeans.
“The police had to think of something pretty quick,” said Milne’s lawyer, Lou Koory of James McKiernan Lawyers. “What they had was a guy in his own house who hadn’t done anything wrong whatsoever.”
Milne said the officers did not ask for identification before throwing him to the ground. He noted in his claim that the child’s report to police suggested a man “had kicked down the door” and entered a nearby house. When police arrived at Milne’s, they found no evidence of damage to the door.
Last October, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court jury acquitted Milne of all charges against him, clearing the way for submission of his $10 million claim. The claim recently was denied by the SLO city council and a lawsuit now is being prepared, said Koory.
Capt. Dan Blanke of the SLO Police Department declined comment and referred questions to the city attorney.
The officers are identified as Jeff Koznek, Amy Chastain, Crystal
Locarnini, all of San Luis Obispo’s department; and Max Schad, Cal Poly police. Also named is the city and its police department.
The claim alleges police officers offered dishonest testimony at trial and tampered with evidence. Specifically, Milne alleges police misconduct; unlawful arrest; excessive force; assault and battery; violation of civil rights; spoliation of evidence; and negligence.