Paso police face excessive force suit



A cloud of depression descended upon Steven Orion Messina last spring when a confrontation with Paso Robles police left the 29-year-old North County man with a pair of gunshot wounds and facing criminal charges for striking an officer with his Chevy Tahoe. Now, a year after the incident, that attitude has turned to indignation.

In a suit filed March 29, Messina alleges that one of the Paso Robles officers—responding to a call by the plaintiff’s father requesting help to corral his then-suicidal son—used excessive force in the arrest and, thereby, violated his civil rights. Capt. Lisa Solomon declined to comment on the allegation, but noted Messina waited until the criminal case against him was closed before bringing the suit against the city.
The incident occurred March 19, 2005 when police attempted to pull over Messina’s 1996 Tahoe at the intersection of 16th and Vine. Reports indicate Officer Matthew Worley positioned his squad car to block the path of the vehicle and stood beside it. Intoxicated and aiming to get around the police cruiser, Messina jumped the curb and struck Worley, who opened fire on the SUV. Messina, who was hit by shotgun fire in the hand and shoulder, also claims the responding officers beat him while taking him into custody
The elder Messina told the New Times not long after the arrest that his son suffered from severe depression at the time, resulting from the loss of his job as a drywall installer and the recent death of a close friend.
Messina pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of felony hit-and-run battery and guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence. Initial charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon were not pursued when it became evident to the Deputy District Attorney that the defendant did not intend to strike the officer. Messina served 121 days in the county jail, and received an additional three years probation.
San Luis Obispo attorney Clay Hall, a partner at the firm Hall, Hieatt and Connelly, will represent the City of Paso Robles in the pending litigation. Hall still awaited court documentation Wednesday (12th) but expects to have a timetable for a response as soon as those papers are served.
Solomon declined to comment on the suit, while Worley was not available to answer any questions. Messina’s lawyer, Steven Dunkle of Santa Barbara’s Sanger and Swysen failed to return repeated calls.

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