Shoplifter sues Paso Robles for police brutality

July 23, 2012


A woman caught shoplifting has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Paso Robles, an officer, and the current and former chiefs of police, claiming her civil rights were violated during a 2010 arrest.

It is at least the fifth complaint brought against the city and its chief of police, caught up in allegations of retaliation, hostile work environment, sexual assaults and mismanagement.

Rodia Monterroso-Bragg’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles, says officer Jeff Bromby committed police brutality during Bragg’s arrest. It names former Police Chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty and current Police Chief Robert Burton for failure to properly supervise and train subordinates. Solomon was chief from 2007 through early 2012, when she resigned amid numerous allegations of wrongdoing.

On July 30, 2010 at about 2 p.m., a Scolari’s Market employee spotted Bragg stealing a bottle of juice and posted a guard outside to arrest her after she left the store. Employees said Bragg was combative and screaming while they detained her which prompted a security guard to restrain the suspect.

Officers Bromby and Dave Hernandez were dispatched to the store. Bromby arrived first to find Bragg sitting in the roadway with her hands tied in front of her while four store employees stood around her.

Bromby attempted to walk Bragg to his car when she lurched forward, saying she needed to get her shoes. Bromby then forced her onto the pavement, according to a tape of the arrest.

Partial transcript of arrest following Bromby’s arrival:

Store employee: “She is extremely combative.”

Bragg: “I need my shoes.”

Bromby: “You know what, you are gonna go down again.”

Bromby: “You are not going to wrestle with me, alright.”

Bragg: Crying and yelling.

Bromby: “Don’t bite me.”

Bragg: “This is fucking ridiculous.”

Bromby: “You just tried to bite me.”

Bragg: “This is burning.”

Bromby: “Maybe you’ll learn.”

Bragg: “Officer, please, this (asphalt) is very hot. Please.”

Bragg: “This is my life, this is my body, can I please just get off of the asphalt.”

Officer Dave Hernandez arrived and the two officers each grabbed onto one of Bragg’s arms and placed her in the backseat of Bromby’s vehicle.

As a result of the minute and a half Bragg was on the hot asphalt, she “received massive and severe burns to her left forearm, which cause considerable pain and has resulted in a large permanent scar.”

According to the complaint, “Bromby fondled plaintiff’s breast and pulled her hair as he lifted her from the road.” This is an allegation that Hernandez says he does not remember happening.

“I think Bromby handled it like any other officer,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez then stayed with Bragg while Bromby interviewed witnesses.

And while the lawsuit claims that Hernandez attempted to take over the investigation after noticing Bragg’s burns, Hernandez says he noted her burns and called paramedics who met them at the police station and that he did not try to take over the investigation.

At the time, several officers contend former chief Solomon-Chitty and a few top-level commanders regularly searched videos of employees in an attempt to claim excessive force, and checked the employee’s computers for unlawful access of driving records, a misdemeanor.

In 2010, Solomon-Chitty was allegedly looking to get rid of Bromby. Solomon-Chitty and the sergeant on duty, however, did not consider the arrest of Bragg to have been an act of police brutality.

Instead, Solomon attempted to have Bromby charged with theft for helping his girlfriend remove items from an elderly relative’s home. After the district attorney’s office rebuffed her attempts, Solomon-Chitty was successful in having Bromby charged with unauthorized access to driving records, charges which were eventually dismissed.

During the allegations of theft, Bromby was placed on paid administrative leave in Oct. 2010. He elected to resign in July 2011 at a time the department was offering an early retirement program allowing Bromby a one time payment of $10,000, as well as the ability to cash in on accrued leave and vacation time.

In her suit, Bragg says the defendants violated her constitutional rights because of the alleged police brutality and the city’s failure to properly train its officers.

Her attorney, David Vogel, has demanded a trial by jury and seeks attorneys’ fees, court costs and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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CAUGHT ON TAPE: Routine traffic stop in TX ends in trooper conducting ‘roadside body cavity search’…

I saw the tape and this woman was not acting normally. IMO she was either on medication or drugs. When someone is put on the hot pavement, they ordinarily would cry or scream or at least yell out to the officer that their arm was burning. The officer did not get the normal clues whereby he would have taken the action to pick her up off the pavement.

I don’t think this incident is police brutality, but the officer will now know that you can’t put someone on hot pavement in Paso in the summer, and maybe he should have known that in the first place.

With that said, the woman was injured in the arrest and should get restitution for her injuries.

I saw no indication of anything sexual and if the officer brushed her breast, it was accidental and momentary, probably during one of the struggles.

I would not expect “normal” actions out of someone who finds themselves in this extraordinary situation. Wasn’t the lurching forward and the desire for shoes a signal of discomfort?

If you saw the tape you saw the “mad rush” Bromby was in to get there. Was that reckless drive appropriate for the theft of a bottle of water where the suspect was already in custody? What was Bromby’s state of mind after that adrenaline rush of a wild drive to the scene?

Upon arrival he gets teed-up by the store employee then metes out a little “street justice.”

Doesn’t appear to me that this “Peace Officer” brought any peace, looks more like “Mayhem made an appearance.”

If Bromby “handled it like any other officer” we should probably expect these lawsuits to continue.

“street justice” like this happens all the time. We just don’t hear about most of it. Now that we have the Internet, we hear about it a lot more than we used to.

Take this:

Anaheim, California: More disturbing news of apparent police brutality. [Police killed an unarmed man who was running away from them. This sparked protests by locals, which was met by police firing rubber bullets into the crowd and unleashing attack dogs.] YouTube 2012 Jul 22

Right, wrong or indifferent, I have my opinion after working around LE during my career.

Most adults eventually learn that when approached by LE one needs to comply with their requests. Not because you may agree with their actions but because one rarely gains anything from making a scene at a scene. I see this as a case that you never know who you are dealing with. Is it a LEO with many years behind him/her and has been through litigation, and knows how to psychologically handle the situation? Or is it a recent hire with little street and life experience and falls back on what they were drilled into their heads before they figured out it’s not all black and white but shades of gray as well?

After one’s encounter (if you feel it necessary) is the time to file a complaint either with the department or a legal formal litigated complaint. At the scene is not the time one will obtain much if any satisfaction. Generally all one gets is an escalation of the original encounter when what is best is a defusing of the emotions of all involved.

Alcohol and recreational drugs often play a part in what could have been a simple encounter with LE into an arrest, a beating or even a shooting. For me, I like the more sensible approach and not pour fuel on a potential fire.

Those that disagree, good luck out there.

I wish I could agree with your point of view and I suspect there is a fair bit of truth to it. However, I see a few problems.

First, if unnecessary force is used or other unjust actions engaged in by police officers, the complaint and appeal process is worthless unless the victim in the situation has overwhelming supportive evidence. It is bad enough that bad cops lie about situations and get away with it. It is worse that their fellow officers (most of whom are otherwise honest) will not just fail to call them on it but will often back them up. The command structure has little incentive to push for punishments beyond a quiet verbal reprimand as doing something would not only open up the door to lawsuits but would cause conflict within the department — particularly with the unions. There needs to be an oversight committee for complaints against police — open to people not necessarily chosen by law enforcement to keep them honest.

Second, wile your explanations for poor handling of situations by inexperienced cops may be on the mark, it is still not an acceptable excuse. I have begun to suspect for the last couple of years that our police training programs are too quick and not thorough enough. There are too many cases of cops falling back on procedures drilled into their heads that are too over-the-top. They need to either get their sense of proportion straightened out before hitting the streets or only work with an experienced partner until they do. And the military approach to dealing with any conflict (“us against them”) needs to be tempered heavily. A more respectful and less aggressive attitude when dealing with someone who is not presenting a physical threat (regardless of how big a jerk they may be) needs more emphasis.

Finally, while they may cry otherwise, cops are WELL-compensated for their work in this area. Mostly, I don’t have a problem with this IF they hold themselves to a sufficiently high standard of conduct. They do deserve more than most blue-collar workers and even some of the lower-paid professionals due to the difficulty of the job and the dangers they sometimes face. But those difficulties and dangers are not good reasons to be abusive, arrogant and aggressive beyond the minimum needed and allowed by the law. If they can’t do their jobs right, we can’t afford to pay their salaries.

Isn’t the statute of limitations six months to file a lawsuit against a government agency?

Two years to find a hungry *hore of an atty. to file such a C. S. law suit? I don’t even think so… More like two minutes in this litigious state. Remember, California set the standard for C. S. lawsuits. We hold the record, and it will not be broken by any other state. C. S. lawsuits has to be right up there with strawberries as a major California income. Swarms of these glaze- eyed law school grads are always looking for an income. I liken them to unscrupulous used car salesmen. I’d mention a couple of FREAK attorneys who do this for a living, but am sure they file on ME. Heck, they file on anyone!

Torture is torture, a burn is a burn and she got burned, out of court settlement, it was a bottle of pop, not $125,000,000 like Gearhart stole, think they would chance rubbing him on the pavement?

She’s cra cra. Stupid is supposed to hurt.

Booty you are better than that!

Stupid does time and pays fines but, no way is stupid supposed to be painful, unless you hit your own finger with a hammer.

This is like a really bad melodrama. The number of claims, cases and crises popping up are unbelievable.

They better get some new management and new governing at Paso Robles before the mismanagement of App & Co. drive it into bankruptcy.

Yep, it’s like a feeding frenzy. The CC just doesn’t get it; people just don’t like, respect, or trust Jim App.

Any chance people can, they will sue PR because it’s like payday. Jim won’t allow anything go to court related to the police, so he settles. First of all, settlements don’t come from his wallet, it’s from ours. So it’s no big deal for him. Second, if anything goes to court related to the police, it WILL come out that he either knew, or was involved, with the former chief’s escapades.

How long must we put up with this? It’s truly agonizing.

In the 90’s, I worked Loss Prevention at a major retail store. During those 2 years, I saw things that amazed me and saddened me as people shoplifted. I apprehended many individual’s, and while the majority came along peacefully and without incident, there were the few who became combative. Sometimes force is all you have to quell and get the situation under “control” with this type circumstance.

Rodia’s first mistake was to shoplift. Her second mistake was to become combative. Her third mistake is making this attempt to bring about this ridiculous lawsuit. Rodia…take responsibilities for your actions.

I believe it will be dismissed.