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Old wounds

A San Luis Obispo woman is suing a former cop for allegedly using 'excessive force'

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It’s been almost exactly two years since Rodi’a Monterroso-Bragg was thrown to the asphalt on a 93-degree day in downtown Paso Robles. A lot’s happened in that time: The city’s chief of police resigned, Paso Robles has been hit with multiple lawsuits from former police officers, and the cop who arrested her resigned.

Now Rodi Bragg (as she likes to be called) has filed a lawsuit of her own. On July 18, Bragg filed a lawsuit against former officer Jeffry Bromby, the city of Paso Robles, former chief Lisa Solomon, acting Chief Robert Burton, and City Manager Jim App, alleging that she was the victim of excessive force for stealing a $2.99 bottle of juice on July 30, 2010.

Bragg was 21 years old when she claims Bromby “without provocation, cause, or warning, violently threw plaintiff down to the street” while he was responding to a reported theft at a Paso Robles grocery store.

Before Bromby arrived at the scene, Bragg had already been subdued and restrained by store employees. According to a copy of the video taken from Bromby’s patrol car camera, Bragg attempted to walk to the sidewalk to get her shoes before Bromby grabbed her by the wrist and threw her to the ground.

“You know what … you’re gonna go down again,” he can be heard saying in the video, which New Times made available for the Aug. 17, 2011, article, “Paso’s cop headache.”

Bragg suffered abrasions and burns to her arms from the incident, during which she was held on the ground for more than 85 seconds, according to her lawsuit.

“Defendant Bromby began to attack plaintiff, forcing her against the scorching asphalt as she cried out in agony and pleaded with him to stop,” the lawsuit reads.

Bragg wasn’t provided medical attention at the scene and was instead left to sit in the patrol car for about 10 minutes while Bromby and two other officers conducted an investigation.

Here’s how Bromby described the incident in his police report: “I stood BRAGG up, telling her she would be placed in my car, and she immediately pulled away, and began to struggle with me. I made several verbal attempts to get BRAGG to quit fighting. She did not comply, so I placed her on the ground, face down to gain control of her and be able to place her hands behind her back in handcuffs.”

She was arrested and charged with petty theft, battery, and resisting arrest. Though Bragg ultimately pleaded guilty to the petty theft charge, for which she was sentenced to community service, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the other charges after reviewing video evidence of the arrest.

SLO-based attorney David Vogel is representing Bragg in the lawsuit. Bragg previously asked the city for compensation, but Vogel said her request was rejected because she failed to file a complaint within six months, as is required under state law.

In his police report, Bromby wrote that Bragg had been extremely combative with store employees and that he was injured while attempting to arrest her.

“Let’s just say that the facts of the case still need to be uncovered,” Vogel said. “It could be Bromby’s position that she was extremely combative, but we believe that the facts are otherwise. … Generally you’re only supposed to use whatever force is reasonably necessary to effect an arrest and in this case it was not necessary to press her against hot pavement in order to effect this arrest.”

Though the lawsuit has been filed, Vogel said he hadn’t received confirmation that city officials were served with court papers.

A number listed under Bromby’s name came up as disconnected, and he couldn’t be reached for comment.

City attorney Iris Yang told New Times she hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit for review, as of press time. App, the city manager, didn’t return a request for comment.

In the lawsuit, Bragg draws from a New Times interview with Solomon when she was still chief: “While the use of force in this case is deemed within policy to gain control of the prisoner, it is unfortunate that it took place on a hot surface. There were other options the officer could have considered in handling the prisoner after the take-down that might have resulted in a better outcome.”

Bragg’s lawsuit alleges that inadequate training and screening policies could be partly responsible for her injuries.

“It seems to have been a [police] department that lacks instructional control,” Vogel told New Times.

Bromby resigned from the department for undisclosed reasons on June 30, 2011, after eight months on administrative leave. He had received at least three citizen complaints while he was an officer in Paso Robles.

He previously worked with the Arroyo Grande Police Department where he attained the rank of sergeant. He also worked as an officer for the SLO County Narcotics Task Force for a short time. Bromby later moved to Atascadero, where he was an officer from March 2005 to January 2006. There was a one-year gap before Bromby was hired in Paso Robles.

After he left Paso Robles, Bromby was charged with four misdemeanor counts of “unauthorized access of DMV information” and “unauthorized access of computer data” by the District Attorney’s Office, but prosecutors dismissed the charges on June 19 before the case could
go to trial.

Solomon resigned March 20 of this year amid accusations by Paso Robles police officers of retaliation and sexual harassment.

Bragg is asking for compensatory and punitive compensation as well as legal fees.

News Editor Colin Rigley can be reached at crigley@newtimesslo.com.

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