$99,000 Settles Excessive-Force Suit

After two juries deadlock over key counts—and dismiss others—Santa Monica decides to pay Paul Burke, who had alleged that police attacked him at Yankee Doodles bar.

After two hung juries, the city of Santa Monica has settled an excessive-force suit against its police department that alleged that four of its officers kicked, punched and used a stun gun on a man at , a sports bar on the Third Street Promenade.

Paul Burke sued the Santa Monica Police Department in the summer of 2009. He contended that his civil rights were violated under the 14th Amendment, that he was the victim of racial discrimination, excessive force, false arrest, negligence, battery, conspiracy and emotional distress.

Two separate juries reached partial verdicts in the case and dismissed most of the allegations. But neither was able to decide whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Burke or used excessive force.

"We settled because it was costing the city and the court a lot of time and lot of money," said Carol A Rohr, the city's lead attorney on the case. "After two times trying it before a jury—and jury unable to reach a decision—it was unlikely that ever would, because the versions [of what happened] were so diametrically opposed."

Under the settlement approved June 5, the city will pay Burke $99,000.

In court documents, Burke, who is black, said he was watching a mixed martial-arts event on TV when he was pushed in the back by a white bar-goer. He said he was leaving the restaurant when he was "attacked from behind" by a police offer who used a Taser on him. He said that a Taser was used on him again and that he collapsed to the ground, where he was repeatedly kicked and punched by four officers.

Rohr said the city's position was that Burke attacked one of the officers and that the officer was badly injured in the scuffle. He was hospitalized with five stitches in his forehead after Burke pushed him into a pool table, and he hit his head on a bucket, she said.

"Mr. Burke claims he did nothing absolutely nothing," she said. "I believe what the officers did was proper and totally reasonable under the circumstances."

Rohr estimated the city would have spent much more to pay Burke's attorneys’ fees if it had lost the suit.

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