San Luis Obispo slated to pay $195,000 for alleged police brutality
December 18, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo taxpayers are in line to pay $195,000 to a local business owner for alleged excessive force by police officers during a case of mistaken identity and police negligence.
Attorneys for both the city and Jeff Milne, owner of Babbo’s Pizzeria, have agreed to accept mediator Dave Peterson’s settlement suggestion. City council members are expected to approve the proposed settlement.
“Both sides have reached what they believe to be a fair resolution,” said attorney for the city, Jay Hieatt, of Hall Hieatt and Connely Attorneys at Law.
In July 2007, Milne arrived home after hiking up Bishop’s Peak, took off his shirt, shoes and socks and was settling down to watch television when four police officers descended on his home at 366 Christina and banged on the front door. Milne readily admitted the officers to a living room decorated with pictures of him and his family, asking, “I live here. What’s going on?”
According to court records, the officers ordered Milne to place his hands in the air and began frisking him. Upon discovering a knife in his pocket the officers pepper sprayed Milne and threw him face first to the ground.
“They kept bashing my face into the floor,” Milne said. “One officer tweaked my neck when he turned my face so another officer could force my eyelids open while another officer pepper sprayed me a second time.”
Officers than lifted Milne up from the ground by the handcuffs, kicked his legs out from under him and frisked him again, Milne said. At this point, officers discovered a gun in the bruised and bleeding man’s pocket.
“I had brought guns out to clean so I could go target shooting with a friend,” Milne said.
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 – would later testify that they were prepared to confront a burglar. Instead, they found Milne at home.
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 a pair of jeans.
Attorney Louis Koory of James McKiernan Lawyers successfully defended Milne on the criminal charges and filed a claim alleging police misconduct; unlawful arrest; excessive force; assault and battery; violation of civil rights; spoliation of evidence; and negligence.
“I’ve incurred two wrist surgeries,” Milne said. “I have three herniated disks and my seventh vertebrae is not lined up with the others.”
According to court records, police officers allege that none of their on-scene radios or police cameras were working during the arrest of Milne. In addition, San Luis Obispo Police officials claim that interrogation room audio and video recording equipment malfunctioned during the questioning of Milne, leaving no recordings available for the trial.
The officers involved are identified as Jeff Koznek, Amy Chastain, Crystal Locarnini, all of San Luis Obispo’s department; and Max Schad, Cal Poly police.
“If I had to do it over again, I would just call 911 and duck,” Milne said.
Daniel Blackburn contributed to this article.