Excessive force lawsuit against SLO police may be settled

An excessive force civil lawsuit brought by a San Luis Obispo pizza parlor owner against local and college police has been tentatively settled.

Under terms of the proposed settlement, San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly will pay $190,000 to Jeffery Milne, the owner-operator of Babbo’s Pizza, according to Lou Koory, Milne’s attorney.

Koory said the settlement has not been finalized.

The case began in 2007, when a 10-year-old reported seeing a man kicking on a door to a home in the neighborhood and told his mother, who called police.

The case escalated into Milne’s arrest, his acquittal following a jury trial on a resisting arrest charge and, finally, the excessive force lawsuit. A civil lawsuit represents one side of a dispute.

According to court documents, Milne had returned from a hike and was in his house at 366 Christina Way about 8:30 p.m. on June 15, 2007. His shoes and shirt were off, and he was drinking alcohol.

The 10-year-old had seen Milne using keys and kicking in the door to the man’s home, according to court documents.Four police officers went to Milne’s home: San Luis Obispo Officers Jeff Koznek, Amy Chastain and Crystal Locarnini and Cal Poly Officer Max Schad.

The stories diverge at this point. Police say when they asked Milne to let them in, he was slow to respond. Police said they had to ask him five times to open the door.

When he let them in, he was slow in responding to other orders as well, police said.

Milne said he was confused because different officers were barking orders at him. He also said he asked them “What’s going on?” and told them it was his home.

“He followed all their commands, but just not quickly enough for them,” Koory said.

Police wrestled him to the ground and pepper-sprayed him, according to court documents. After they realized he wasn’t a burglar, they arrested him on charges of resisting arrest.

Milne says police came up with the resisting arrest charge to cover up their negligence.

During Milne’s jury trial, Roger A. Clark, a police procedures expert and 27-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, faulted local police for overreacting, especially given that the witness to the alleged crime was a 10-year-old.

Clark said officers are procedurally required to consider all possible circumstances before acting. He added that they should have treated the incident as “suspicious circumstances,” as the dispatcher described it to them, rather than a burglary in progress.

When officers arrived at Milne’s door, Clark said, they saw no signs of forced entry, knew that he had used a key and saw that he was not dressed like a burglar.

After a jury acquitted him, Milne filed his lawsuit.