For all the talk about Police reform, there is still a pathetic lack of restraints on behavior by cops. The Courts, the media and the public at large have bought into the benevolent attitudes toward law enforcement.
The death of an innocent man by local Sheriffs in Sonoma County is another horrific example of police abuse and misconduct.
San Francisco Chronicle 12.6.2019
A 52-year-old man who was mistaken for a stolen car suspect and died after a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy used a neck-hold to cut off blood to his brain, had difficulty walking, talking and breathing due to multiple health problems, friends and family told The Chronicle on Tuesday.
David Glen Ward, of Petaluma, died last Wednesday after two sheriff’s deputies and two Sebastopol police officers mistook him for a vehicle thief and chased him in his green Honda Civic, which Ward had reported stolen three days earlier.
Deputies and officers surrounded the car after a seven-minute, 70-mph chase ended on a dead-end road south of Sebastopol and a struggle ensued to get Ward out of the car, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is conducting an investigation into his death.
One deputy deployed a Taser and another used what is known as a carotid restraint or carotid choke-hold on Ward, who was allegedly resisting. Ward became unresponsive as he was removed from the vehicle, officials said. He later died at the hospital.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Santa Rosa police said officials are investigating the timeline of the struggle, including how close together the Taser and carotid hold were used.
“It’s kind of tough to say,” Lt. Dan Marincik said. “They occurred very close to each other.”
People close to Ward expressed doubts Tuesday that he would have put up much resistance based on his limited physical abilities.
Catherine Aguilera, 63, said her half-brother was disabled from a crash involving a drunk driver roughly 20 years ago. In that accident, Ward was driving a motorcycle in the Petaluma area when he was struck and thrown “quite a distance,” said Aguilera, a resident of Monroe, Wash.
Ward suffered head and back injuries, rendering him dependent on a caretaker. He moved in with his father at a rural property on Mill Street in Bloomfield, an unincorporated area in Sonoma County. After their father’s death four years ago, Aguilera said, Ward became depressed, lonely and isolated.
He welcomed the “down and out” into his home, she said, perhaps to his detriment.
“He had some connections with people in the community that didn’t have his best interest in mind,” Aguilera said.
Rene Gutierrez, who lived in a cottage next to Ward and had been helping him cope with various physical ailments for about a year, said he introduced Ward to a man he identified as “D.” Ward let “D” stay at the house, Gutierrez said.
“He schmoozed his way right in,” he said. “Then he brought his girlfriend. That’s when the trouble started.”
On Nov. 24, Gutierrez said he heard the sounds of a fight coming from Ward’s house. He entered and saw “D” beating Ward with a handgun. The couple fled in Ward’s car, Gutierrez said, and Ward reported it stolen. Authorities confirmed they received a stolen car report regarding the Honda Civic three days before Thanksgiving. The suspect was said to be armed.
Two days after the car was stolen, Gutierrez said, a mutual acquaintance told Ward that the car was in Santa Rosa and drove him there to retrieve it. Ward was driving home when Sebastopol police and sheriff’s deputies initiated the stop on his vehicle, Aguilera said.
Ward was not using an oxygen tank when officers approached him, according to police. It remains unclear whether his oxygen tank was in the car. Authorities said Ward refused to get out of the car and asked deputies why they were “harassing” him and stated he was the “victim” in the situation, Lt. Marincik said.
Beyond that, Marincik said, “communication was very minimal.”
Deputies tried to pull Ward out of the car after he rolled down his window and bit the officers, Marincik said.
Sgt. Juan Valencia, of the Sheriff’s Office, said there is body camera video of the chase and struggle, which will be released within 45 days of the incident.
The use of the carotid restraint, in which an officer squeezes a subject’s carotid arteries and cuts off blood to the brain, is controversial and has been banned by some law enforcement agencies. San Francisco prohibited the hold in 2016, but Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies are allowed to use it.
According to the office’s use-of-force policy, the hold “may be effective in restraining a violent or combative individual,” but it cautions that the move can cause injury and should be limited to specific circumstances.
“It’s used — I shouldn’t say commonly,” Valencia said. “It’s one of the tools that we have for taking people safely into custody.”
Aguilera said she has read reports of what happened and puzzled over the fact that four law enforcement officers swarmed the vehicle of her brother, who “wasn’t a big, strong, healthy guy.”
“The whole thing just raises thorny questions, and it just is so very violent what happened,” Aguilera said. “I mean, I would be afraid to get out of the car, too. It sounds frightening, and if he was having problems breathing, I could see where that would contribute to him not complying.”
The two sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene when the pursuit ended were a part of a line-of-duty shooting in 2017, and one of the police officers was a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit, according to court records.
Sonoma County sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Blount, who has been with the force since Feb. 7, 2000, and Deputy Jason Little, who has been with the office since Jan. 28, 2002, were investigated in 2017 for shooting at a man who had reportedly assaulted someone and had an outstanding warrant. The man suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and both deputies were cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
Another officer who was at the scene last Wednesday, Andrew Bauer, of the Sebastopol Police Department, tried to get a 58-year-old man out of his home in November 2014 and “became aggressive” when the man refused, grabbing his right arm and twisting it behind his back, according to a lawsuit.
Bauer allegedly slammed the man’s face into the arm of a recliner, breaking the man’s glasses and slicing the man’s nose. The man was never told why the officers were at his home or that he was under arrest, according to the complaint. A $65,000 settlement with the man was reached in September 2015, according to court records.
All four of the deputies and officers in the incident involving Ward have been placed on administrative leave as Santa Rosa police investigate.