Charges of Resisting Arrest Dropped Against Esa Wroth

Sonoma County prosecutors Wednesday dismissed a resisting-arrest and assault case against a 28-year-old Forestville man who was subdued by several jail officers and shocked with a Taser multiple times on the jail floor as he was being booked on a drunken-driving charge.

Esa Wroth entered a no contest plea to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge and was given credit for time served by Commissioner Jennifer Dollard.

The plea deal came as trial was set to begin on 11 charges, including a DUI and two felonies: resisting arrest and assaulting a correctional officer.

A recording of the incident was posted online by Wroth’s defense attorney, who characterized the behavior as “horrible brutality.”

The 29-minute recording, taken by a jail employee, shows Wroth being punched and kicked by correctional deputies, who also shocked him numerous times with a Taser in an effort, they say, to subdue him.

Jail officials said the level of force was appropriate given Wroth’s aggressive behavior when he was receiving a routine medical check upon entry to the jail. They said the intoxicated man ripped off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pulse monitor from his finger and attempted to bowl over a nurse.

Deputies tackled him and were preparing to put him in a restraint chair when he began physically resisting them, the department said.

Wroth pulled out the Taser’s barbs, tried to grab a Taser and attempted to bite a deputy, the department said. Ultimately, Wroth was restrained without serious injury to himself or deputies, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Wroth’s attorney, Izaak Schwaiger of Santa Rosa, claimed “absolute victory” with the dismissal, vowing to file a federal lawsuit against the county within a day for alleged violations of Wroth’s civil rights.

“They have an awful lot of explaining to do,” Schwaiger said, adding that he believed media coverage pressed prosecutors into dismissing the case — in addition to the current protests about perceived police brutality in cases nationwide.

“They didn’t want to be cast in the same light,” he said.

He said there were “a ton of felonies committed — but none by my client.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said the resisting arrest and assault case — filed as a felony by Schwaiger’s current law partner, former prosecutor Victoria Shanahan — couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a Sonoma County jury.

In the end, Wroth pleaded to a charge that can be used as a prior DUI if he is arrested again, Staebell said.

“We looked at the totality of the circumstances and felt we were not going to be able to prove to 12 people that he resisted law enforcement,” he said. “We looked at the climate of the day.”

Wroth maintained he was a passenger, not the driver. He told authorities the driver was a friend of his, whom he didn’t name, and who ran off after their vehicle crashed on Jan. 2, 2013. The pair had been out drinking at the Forestville Club.

It would have been difficult to prove Wroth was driving, Staebell said, and much of the alleged resisting and assault occurred before the recording began.

“That’s a central issue,” Staebell said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, staff followed standard practice in recording the video when Wroth became physically aggressive.

Wroth had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent —almost three times the legal limit — about three hours after his arrest. Staebell said he continued to be resistant to treatment at the hospital.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

Source Press Democrat

 November 19, 2014 Story

Esa Wroth was wasted. He doesn’t dispute that.

But the 28-year-old Forestville man says he didn’t deserve what happened last year when he was arrested in Sonoma County on drunken-driving charges.

While he was being booked into the jail, the solar company consultant says, correctional deputies slammed him to the ground for no good reason. They punched and kicked him and shot him 20 times with electric stun guns.

The incident was captured in part in a 29-minute video that Wroth’s lawyer said is an alarming example of police brutality. It will be played next month to jurors when Wroth is tried on suspicion of assaulting a correctional deputy, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated.

Warning: Half-hour long video contains profanity

“It’s tantamount to torture,” Wroth’s lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger, said Tuesday. “From beginning to end, they are beating him. It’s just brutal.”

Jail officials said the level of force was appropriate given Wroth’s aggressive behavior when he was receiving a routine medical check upon entry to the jail.

Assistant Sheriff Randall Walker on Wednesday said the intoxicated man ripped off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pulse monitor from his finger and then backed into a nurse, attempting to bowl the nurse over.

Deputies tackled him to the floor and were preparing to put him in a restraint chair when he began physically resisting them, Walker said.

Deputies punched Wroth and shot him with Taser guns to get him to stop but he continued to struggle, Walker said.

At one point he pulled out the electric barbs, tried to grab a Taser gun and attempted to bite a deputy, Walker said.

Deputies responded with more control “strikes” and Taser shots, Walker said.

“Their actions are all reactions to his physical resistance,” Walker said.

Ultimately, Wroth was restrained without injury to himself or deputies, Walker said.

Prosecutors charged Wroth with felony assault on a correctional officer, but a judge reduced the allegations to misdemeanors after a preliminary hearing.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell declined to comment, citing the pending trial.

The night of the incident, Jan. 2, 2013, Wroth had been drinking at the Forestville Club.

When it was time to go home, Wroth maintains he handed his keys to an unnamed friend, who got behind the wheel and drove the two of them away from the club.

Somewhere on River Road, the friend crashed the car and fled on foot, Schwaiger said. Wroth stayed behind and was arrested on drunken-driving charges. Tests showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent — or more than twice the legal limit — about three hours after his arrest.

During booking, correctional deputies found Wroth was not following instructions and knocked him to the floor, Schwaiger said.

The video, made by a jail employee, begins as Wroth is being held face-down on the ground. It does not show what led up to the altercation. Walker said staff followed standard practice in recording the video when Wroth became physically aggressive. Schwaiger obtained the video from prosecutors.

It opens as four deputies are on his back and legs, trying to put shackles around his waist. Wroth complains, tries to roll over and is punched repeatedly in the back. As the struggle continues, deputies pull Taser guns and shoot him, shouting commands to stop resisting.

“Quit moving!” a deputy yells. “You’re going to get it again, you hear me?”

More Taser shots are fired and Wroth screams. A nurse is called when an electric barb gets stuck in his skin.

Near the end of the video, he is placed on a stretcher and carried outside to a waiting ambulance.

Schwaiger said he counted 20 independent Taser shots, 16 punches, a kick and two “knee drops.” Wroth had bruises covering his body, a black eye and wrist pain that he still feels today.

“He looks like he did a couple of rounds with Rocky,” the lawyer said.

Walker said Wroth suffered a face injury in the crash. Fights with drunk people are common, but the number of Taser deployments on Wroth was unusual, Walker said.

Still, he said he found that deputies did nothing wrong.

“Force doesn’t look good,” Walker said. “But he’s not injured.”

Wroth faces up to three years in jail if he is convicted at trial, set for Dec. 11.

Schwaiger said he is troubled by the fact that the video was reviewed by jail officials who found deputies acted within department regulations. He said military jailers in Iraq are held to higher standards.

“If this happens in a war zone, it is a war crime,” Schwaiger said. “If it happens in Sonoma County, it’s according to policy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or

Source Press Democrat:

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3rd inmate in 3 weeks found dead in a Sonoma County jail

An inmate booked in the Sonoma County Jail died in custody Saturday in the third death at a county detention facility in as many weeks, authorities said.
Rhonda Jean Everson, 50, a transient who frequents west Sonoma County, was arrested Friday on suspicion of drug possession and felony probation violation, said Sgt. Cecile Focha, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Focha said deputies found Everson in possession of heroin and methamphetamine at the time of her arrest, and the suspect even tried to bring some of the drugs into the jail. After a screening by medical staff, deputies took Everson to a special housing unit at the Main Adult Detention Facility that focuses on inmates who are going through withdrawal.
On Saturday morning, deputies found Everson awake and checked on her twice while making their rounds, Focha said. But at 9:30 p.m., a nurse doling out medication found Everson unresponsive in a cell. Paramedics tried to revive her, but she was ultimately pronounced dead at 9:49 p.m., deputies said.
Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the death were unclear, but there was no sign of injury or foul play. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office referred the case to Marin County investigators, Focha said. She did not say why the case was being investigated by Marin County officials.
Detectives with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return phone calls.
On Oct. 8, deputies found Diego Armando DePaz, 31, of Santa Rosa dead in his bunk at the North County Correctional Facility. Jail medical staff performed a physical and mental screening on DePaz, who had no obvious issues when he surrendered two days before to begin serving a 15-day sentence for a 2013 conviction for driving under the influence, Focha said.
Deputies said there was no obvious cause of death and the Marin County coroner is performing an autopsy.
On Sept. 28., Petaluma slaying suspect Mikol Wayne Stewart, 37, of Santa Rosa committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell at the Sonoma County Jail.
Stewart was being held without bail after he was arrested Sept. 11 in connection with the slaying of Arturo Hinojosa Jr., 49, who was found shot to death at his home on Suncrest Hill Drive, police said.
Stewart’s death was the first suicide in a Sonoma County jail since 2013, when an inmate cut his wrists, Sheriff’s Sgt. Shannon McAlvain told The Chronicle last month.
Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @EvanSeroffsky


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Memorial Rally for Andy Lopez and Stop Police Brutality Day 10/22/14 at SSU

The SSU Sociology Social Justice and Activism Club is holding a memorial rally for Andy Lopez and Stopping Police Brutality Day October 22 at noon in the Library Quad. Shelby Wade, ( Club President invites community people to attend and speak at the memorial. The Club has arranged a public address system, music, and several community, student and faculty speakers. All are welcomed to help inform SSU students about what happened a year ago and what needs to be done to prevent this again.

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Diego Armando De Paz, Age 31, Dies in North County Facility

The family of a Santa Rosa man found dead in the Sonoma County Jail said this week they believe he may have gone into shock when he didn’t receive prescribed medications for several health conditions, including diabetes.

Diego Armando De Paz, 31, was serving a 15-day sentence related to a drunken driving conviction when he was found unresponsive in his North County Detention Center bed last Wednesday.

He died despite efforts to revive him.

Jail officials were awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of his death. An investigation is ongoing, Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said Monday.

But Diana De Paz said she thinks jail officials are somehow to blame for her brother’s death. She said he took injections three times a day for diabetes and was on pain medication for injuries from a car crash eight years ago. He also was prescribed pills for depression, she said.

She said it’s possible he wasn’t given the correct medicine or the right amount and died because of it.

“We’re going to do our best to find out what happened and find who’s responsible,” Diana De Paz said.

She said the family has hired a lawyer and is considering a wrongful death lawsuit.

Meanwhile, funeral services for Diego De Paz are planned for Friday.

The 2000 Elsie Allen High School graduate leaves behind four sons and was pursuing a lifelong dream of opening an auto body shop, his sister said.

He was enrolled in a Sacramento vocational school and was a full-time caretaker for his mother, she said.

Two years ago he was recognized by Sheriff Steve Freitas for catching a man who had just sexually assaulted a pregnant woman along a Santa Rosa street, his sister said.

De Paz was driving near the scene of the 2011 attack when he saw the man later identified as Jack Caratachea on top of the woman who was eight months’ pregnant, his sister said.

He jumped out of the car and ran after the man, holding him down until police arrived. He testified at the trial, and Caratachea was later sentenced to a life prison term.

De Paz helped out despite the fact that he was still recovering from two broken legs he suffered in a 2006 head-on collision with a drunken driver, his sister said.

The crash happened as he and his wife and their baby were traveling along Guerneville Road. His sister said he steered his car away from the car at the last minute so he would take the brunt of the impact, saving his wife and son. The driver of the other car was killed.

He underwent six surgeries, had steel rods inserted in his legs and was on pain medication until his death, she said.

“He was an overall awesome guy,” his sister said. “He was very caring and he used his power to help whenever needed.”

But he had problems, too. He was cited last year for drunken driving and sentenced to jail time. He violated probation by driving and was ordered to serve another 15 days, his sister said.

He was two days into the sentence when he was discovered unresponsive in his bed. Deputies tried to revive him but they couldn’t get him to start breathing again.

His sister said it was strange because he had called his mother the night before and seemed fine.

She said the family desperately wants to know how he died.

“We want to know because when the kids are older they are going to want to know what happened,” she said. “And we don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.

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Santa Rosa PD Gets Pay Raise of 9.5% Over 3 Years

The Santa Rosa City Council signed off on new three-year contracts with its 165 police officers and public safety managers Tuesday following a vigorous debate about whether the city could afford to pay raises totaling 9.5 percent.

The majority of the council felt the increases were justified given the higher pension costs the officers and managers had agreed to shoulder and seemed sustainable given the city’s improving economy.

“Our police force is the envy of everybody in the North Bay,” Mayor Scott Bartley said. “It comes at a cost, and I think it’s a reasonable cost.”

But council members Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs, as they have for similar contracts, argued forcefully that the council was recklessly inking multi-year deals with raises that the city’s financial projections show it cannot afford.

After briefly enjoying a surplus, the city will likely be pushed back into deficits next year because of the cost of new labor contracts, Wysocky said.

“That to me is a huge alarm bell, and it should be for anyone thinking about the sustainability of the organization,” he said.

Bartley, Jake Ours, Robin Swinth and Erin Carlstrom voted in favor of the contract, Wysocky voted against it, and Combs abstained.

In exchange for the raises, the new contracts call for the city’s 135 police officers and 30 police managers to pay 4 percent more toward their pension costs over the term of the contract. That will result in net raises of 5.5 percent, or 1.8 percent per year.

The new contracts also increase uniform allowances by $300 per year and vest allowances by $50 per year, combine the vision and dental plans, align the city’s domestic partner benefits with those of the state and increase slightly the rate at which vacation time is accrued.

The total cost of the new contracts is estimated at $754,000 for the remainder of this year, and $4.9 million over the three-year life of the contracts.

The contracts continue a pattern in recent years of granting raises to workers while requiring them to pay a higher percentage of their pension costs. By the end of the three-year contract, officers and managers will be paying 13 percent of salary toward pensions, more than is required under state law.

Shifting those costs onto workers is projected to help stabilize the ever-increasing annual contribution to the California Public Employee Retirement System. Instead of paying 36 percent of salary to CalPERS, the city will only be paying 32 percent by the third year, Human Resources Director Fran Elm said.

Tim Hughes, president of the Police Officers Association, thanked the council and assured them the contract would help the city attract “exceptional police officer candidates” while retaining the existing force.

Several medical leaves and unfilled positions mean officers often work overtime, Acting Chief Hank Schreeder said. Recruiting new police candidates is challenging right now because lots of departments are hiring “after a lull,” he said. The department will also need to staff up to begin policing the Roseland neighborhood once the annexation of that area is complete, he said.

Wysocky suggested that the 9.5 percent increase over three years might embolden other employee groups to demand more from the city, but Employee Relations Manager Paul Carroll disagreed.

“This specific contract doesn’t really push any boundaries in term of other raises that other units have received,” he said.

But Combs questioned the long-term implications of giving raises to cover employees’ pension costs, noting that future retirement payments will be based on those higher salaries. She, too, said she was worried about the city’s financial “sustainability.”

“These actions, along with other contracts that we’ve agreed to and our total budget, tie the hands of the next council while moving it into debt,” she said.

But Ours expressed confidence in the city’s financial future, suggesting that some of the studies upon which Wysocky was relying were “not thought-out.”

“We’ve looked at what the future is going to hold, and I have no doubt that we’re going to be able to pay our obligations,” Ours said.

Carlstrom, an attorney in private practice, said she felt the debate reflected a “pitting of the working class against itself.” Recalling her own father’s resentments over the generous compensation for public employees, Carlstrom suggested the opposition of some council members was rooted in pension envy.

“I’m not going to pit myself against somebody who has elected to come work for the city because you get a pension and I don’t,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or On Twitter @srcitybeat.


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DA says Gelhaus “was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others”

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it will not file criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement that investigators concluded Deputy Erick Gelhaus “fired his weapon in response to what he honestly and reasonably believed was an imminent threat of death to himself or others.

“As such, he was lawfully acting in defense of himself or others, and no basis for seeking criminal charges exists,” Ravitch said in the statement.

The finding was revealed in an email announcing a 2 p.m. press conference at which Ravitch intended to explain her findings. Moments after the email was sent, staff with the District Attorney’s Office sent another email recalling the prior announcement, indicating they had not intended to report the result of the investigation until the press conference.

For five months, District Attorney investigators have been looking into whether Gelhaus broke the law when he shot Lopez seven times during an Oct. 22 encounter in southwest Santa Rosa.


Posted in Erick Gelhaus, Sonoma County Sheriffs | Leave a comment

29 drivers were cited for being unlicensed or having a suspended license, 4 DUI suspects apprehended

Santa Rosa DUI checkpoint nets four arrests
Mon, Jun 2, 2014
Four people suspected of driving drunk were caught this weekend at a DUI checkpoint in Santa Rosa, police said.

The four were among 816 drivers screened by officers at two checkpoints Saturday night, one on College Avenue near Morgan Street and later on Steele Lane near Cleveland Avenue.

Sgt. Mike Numainville said in a press release that no drivers stopped appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

But 29 drivers were cited for being unlicensed or having a suspended license.

One driver was found to be wanted on a warrant and was taken into custody.

The suspected drunken drivers ranged from 25 years to 61. Three were from Santa Rosa and one was a San Diego resident.

Officers worked the checkpoints from 9 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday.

Grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety helped fund the effort.

Source: Press Democrat

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SRPD Officer Stephen Bussell Inteferes with Citizen’s Right to Observe Police

On May 5, 2014 at approximately 10:00 p.m. as I stood at the corner of Sebastopol Road and Dutton Avenue (370 Sebastopol Road) I was informed that Jose Luis Godoy had just been pulled over in front of the Women’s Justice Center (250 Sebastopol Road) for a traffic infraction (failure to make a complete stop).
My fiance Scott Ihlenfeld drove me to the Acme Auto Wrecking gravel driveway. (See Attached Google map marked with an “X-Alicia vehicle”.) As we drove up, I noticed there were several law enforcement officers (6-8 officers) behind Mr. Godoy’s vehicle. Some patrol cars were driving away as I approached. In Mr. Godoy’s vehicle was one passenger.
I got out of my vehicle with my camcorder and walked to the sidewalk immediately in front of the Women’s Justice Center ramp. (See attached Google map marked with an “X-sidewalk next to ramp”.) As I walked in front of the ramp, several flashlights were immediately pointed directly at my face, which made it difficult for me to see where I was walking, and made it impossible for me to record.
One unknown Officer yelled, “get back”. At the time the officers and Mr. Godoy’s vehicle were located approximately 25 feet away on Sebastopol Road. I immediately started walking back and asked why and an unknown officer yelled angrily, “Alicia get back”. I feared for my safety because officers were making it difficult for n1e to see. I didn’t know if officers were pointing guns at me or were going to come and tackle me, so I continued walking further away from the officers. At this point, I anticipate I was at least 40 feet away from Mr. Godoy and the officers.  (I was at the top of the Ramp).
I have been actively protesting mass traffic stops and so-called sobriety checkpoints throughout the county for many years. I do not normally engage law enforcement officers in conversation while they are performing their duties. In this instance, the officer had initiated contact and clearly knew who I was, as he yelled out my name. This officer kept yelling at me to “get back” even though I was approximately 40 feet away. Eventually, the officer stopped yelling, “backup”.
The officers shined their flashlights in my face and camcorder until the citing officer handed a citation to Mr. Godoy. Once the flashlights stopped shining in my face and I observed the officers walking to their respective motorcycles and patrol car I determined the traffic stop was complete. Wanting to find out who the participating officers were, I walked to the sidewalk closest to the roadway, Sebastopol Road. There were approximately three law enforcement officers standing next to their motorcycles. I recognized Stephen Bussell and observed him and another officer getting into Bussell’s patrol car, nearby. As I approached Bussell’s patrol car, he immediately turned on his patrol flood light and pointed it at my face. I continued walking past his vehicle, and Bussell followed me with his flood light. Bussell and the other officer in his vehicle laughed as they drove away.

The purpose of this complaint, is to advise you of harassing and intimidating tactics by Santa Rosa Police law enforcement officials, in an effort to prevent me from lawfully recording police activity in public.
From past instances of observing traffic stops, I believed then and still believe that I was more than reasonable in my proximity and my attempts to observe, so as to not interfere with law enforcement duties. I believe that SRPD officers only intention in asking me to back away while shining their bright flashlights at me was to prevent me from observing and filming their activities. There was no reason to have 6-8 bright flashlights pointed at me during the entire Godoy traffic stop, other than to assure that my recorder could not capture any footage.
I will continue to be at traffic stops, checkpoints, protests etc. filming police while they are
performing their lawful and unlawful duties in public places. Because of this, I want to be
assured that the intimidation, harassment and interference referenced above will not be repeated while I or other persons are filming or observing police activities. This includes but is not limited to the following:
1. Shining their patrol flood lights for no reason other than to harass and prevent the video
camcorder from capturing the officers identities and images;
2. Causing law enforcement observers temporary blindness while observing police conduct; and
3. Preventing people from observing the scene by forcing them to move away

This is not the first time Officer Bussell has interfered with my right to film police activities.

On December 10,2013, sometime after 5:00 p.m. I was standing next to other observers with cameras and/or camcorders on the lawn of a house (952 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA) across from the Santa Rosa Police Department. We were observing and filming a protest against Santa Rosa Police Department. As I was filming I noticed several police officers in riot gear walking in a line towards us. When he was approximately five feet away from me, Officer Bussell screamed at me to cross the street with “the other protestors” and said “only media” could be there. I immediately started walking eastbound on the sidewalk to use the crosswalk a few feet away (see attached map). Before I took more than a few steps, I felt someone grab me and shove me, forcing me into the street and into the path of oncoming traffic. I immediately turned around and recognized it was Stephen Bussell, who was inches away from me. I asked him not to touch me. He again yelled at me to cross the street. He was very agitated and angry and continued to move closer to me. I told him I was trying to cross the street but that I wasn’t going to walk into heavy traffic outside of the crosswalk. I agreed to walk outside of the crosswalk if he escorted me across. He then proceeded to shove me into the path of a vehicle that nearly hit me.
Again, because Officer Bussell knew I was observing and sympathetic to those protesting law enforcement activities, he singled me out. Others located in the same area, engaging in the same activity of observing and recording the scene were not told to leave. Officer Bussell made no such demands, threats or made any attempt to prevent those he considered “media” and not “protestors” from filming. I did not see or hear about Officer Bussell grabbing or shoving any others engaging in this activity, or order them to illegally – and at great risk – cross a major road with heavy traffic.
I want assurances that Officer Bussell will be formerly reprimanded for 1) placing me in
immediate danger of being struck by traffic, not once, but twice within seconds, and 2)
demanding that I put myself at grave risk by instructing me to cross heavy traffic outside of a crosswalk.
I also want assurances that all SRPD officers will be properly trained, supervised and instructed to abstain from interfering with protesters, monitors, legal observers and others lawfully present and observing SRPD activities, especially in the course of engaging in protected free speech and other civil liberties.

Posted in Abuse Reports, Santa Rosa PD, Stephen Bussell | Leave a comment

Remembering Richard DeSantis

Statement by Adrianne DeSantis for October 30, 2013 Santa Rosa Rally

Last weekend, I huddled on the couch with my granddaughter, thinking of the Lopez family and the unbearable depths of their anguish.  That anguish is where I reside, and there truly are no words that can take away the painEvery time a loved one is lost to this type of violence, we are re-traumatized.

One of the law enforcement policies that must change, is that we must no longer allow officers to shoot to kill, when there are other options.  Police must be trained to accurately discern that they have options short of death, that will work, and they must use them.  Officers who believe that other people’s lives are expendable, or who use lethal force out of wrong intent, do not belong patrolling our neighborhoods.

The time to ask questions is before pulling the trigger, not after a life has been taken.  It is shocking how rapidly lethal force is used, time after time.  Police seem oblivious to the fact that more often than they realize, they have the ability and the duty to slow down the progression of events.  Circumstances evolve based on the approach chosen by law enforcement.

Police have families and friends like the rest of us, who do not want harm to come to them, either.  But remember that when they chose their occupation, they did so knowing the risksTo mitigate risks by seeing deadly force as the only viable option is not what we want in our communities.

What we do want is for people to be viewed as human beings.  When the mentality is that everyone who comes to the attention of police is a “suspect,” the de-humanization process beginsAll too often, the end of the process is that someone’s son or father or brother is having his lifeless wrists handcuffed, as the final assault on human dignity.

I am thankful for all the support shown to the Lopez family, as it was shown to me and my family, to the families of Jeremiah Chass, Jessie Hamilton, Heather Billings, and many others.  This community is fantastic for its heart, its organizing, its solidarity, and for coming together to talk, even when there are differing views.

We actually all want the same thingTo enjoy being alive, to keep our loved ones safe, and to help one another.  This is something purposeful to work on, out of love for our people who have passed on, and for those still beside us.

Editor’s Note: Richard DeSantis was shot and killed by Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Richard Celli on April 9, 2007.

Posted in Abuse Reports, Richard Celli, Santa Rosa PD | Leave a comment

Miguel Angel Garcia, 32, apparently killed himself – not shot by SWAT Team

A Napa man fatally shot in a 19-hour standoff with law enforcement in Kenwood last week died from a single gunshot wound to the chest that authorities say appears to have been self-inflicted.

The preliminary finding came in an autopsy performed Monday on Miguel Angel Garcia, 32, Petaluma police reported.

Garcia had no other gunshot injuries except the close-contact wound to his chest, despite some gunfire exchanged with sheriff’s deputies during the prolonged wait for his surrender, police said.

He had threatened to take his life during the standoff, or force authorities to take his life for him — an act known as “suicide by cop,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.

Monday marked the first time a law enforcement agency has confirmed Garcia’s identity. He had previously been identified by a resident and an owner of the Hoff Road property where Garcia barricaded himself inside a trailer late on the night of April 1.

During periodic negotiations preceding his death, Garcia confessed to a number of violent crimes, including murder, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.

Garcia reportedly told law enforcement officials where to find a slaying victim, leading authorities Thursday to find a man’s remains near Lake Hennessey in east Napa County.

An autopsy was conducted Monday on the slain man, but no results were being released, Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Blower said.

Blower also said the victim’s name was not available for publication.

Garcia was wanted on criminal charges out of Napa County when authorities surrounded the trailer off Hoff Road last Tuesday.

The occupant of the trailer escaped in the early minutes, but Garcia apparently held his girlfriend as a hostage until her release was negotiated the next morning, April 2.

Garcia refused to surrender, however, and at one point, after tear gas was deployed, sprayed gunfire indiscriminately from the trailer, hitting several patrol cars and a neighbor’s house and prompting at least one deputy to fire back, according to law enforcement reports.

After more tear gas was deployed, Garcia came outside, collapsed and died, Petaluma police said.

Police said an assault rifle was found inside the trailer where Garcia had encamped.

Petaluma police said the crime scene in Kenwood was still being processed and that Santa Rosa police experts were still analyzing physical evidence, as well.

Lt. Matt Stapleton said there was no word yet on evidence directly linking Garcia’s firearm to his chest wound, though that type of analysis usually takes some time, Lt. Tim Lyons said.

Garcia, who has a criminal history in Mendocino County, was wanted in Napa County for felony failure to appear in court on a child endangerment charge, unlawful firearm and ammunition possession, receipt of stolen property and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia when he turned up in the Sonoma Valley last week, law enforcement said.

At the request of the Napa County Major Crimes Task Force, a Sonoma County sheriff’s special operations unit, and later Santa Rosa police, surrounded the trailer shortly before midnight Tuesday to try to serve an arrest warrant, prompting the standoff.

Petaluma police are asking that anyone with information about the case to contact police Detective Tami Shoemaker, at (707) 778-4444, or Detective Joel Stemmer, at (707) 778-4532.

(You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or


A man who died following a lengthy standoff at a Kenwood trailer with law enforcement has been identified as one of Napa County’s most wanted criminal suspects.

The Napa Valley Crimestoppers website identifies Miguel Angel Garcia, 32, as being wanted on several felony charges including child endangerment, possessing an illegal gun, drugs and receiving stolen property.

On Thursday, the owner of the Hoff Road property where the standoff occurred and the man who’d briefly been in the trailer with the armed man said the photo of Garcia from the website is that of the man who died after being fired upon by SWAT team members.

“That’s the bad guy,” said the property owner, looking at the photo. He said he was shown the same photo by law enforcement officers during the standoff.

The man in the trailer, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Victor, also said the photo was the man he knew only as “Miguel.”

Law enforcement officials haven’t identified the dead man. They’ve said he was wanted in Napa County on felony charges including drugs, weapons and child endangerment.

According to news reports last week, Garcia was due in court in Napa County and when he didn’t appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest. A $1,000 reward was promised for information leading to his arrest.

8:27 a.m.:

Petaluma and Santa Rosa police officers Thursday morning began collecting evidence at a Kenwood property where a wanted man died after a lengthy standoff with a SWAT team whose members deployed tear gas and shot at him.

Thursday morning, the body of the suspect remained, covered up and outside the Hoff Road trailer where he’d been holed up for about 19 hours Tuesday into Wednesday.

Sheriff’s officials say it isn’t clear whether the man died after shooting himself or whether shots fired by the SWAT team killed him.

Law enforcement officials said detectives Thursday also were interviewing officers and SWAT team members who were at the property during the night when the man died.

The man, who officials haven’t identified, was being sought by Napa County law enforcement on several felony charges including weapons, narcotics and child endangerment.

Also under investigation Thursday were comments the man made during talks with law enforcement negotiators, who were trying to get him to give up peacefully.

The man admitted to a murder as well as several other crimes, said sheriff’s Lt. Brett Sackett.

Further details of those alleged crimes weren’t released.

In a press release issued early Thursday, sheriff’s officials outlined further details about the standoff on Hoff Road.

Sackett said the man had become less communicative during the afternoon after he admitted to other crimes and then had talked of suicide or getting police to shoot him.

“The suspect threatened to kill himself on numerous occasions or create a situation where he would force law enforcement to kill him, in what is known as “suicide by cop,” according to Sackett.

In an attempt to engage him, multiple rounds of a chemical agent were sent into the trailer, Sackett said.

After the first rounds of tear gas went in, the man fired shots out the trailer, hitting a nearby home, Sackett said.

Further rounds of tear gas then were shot into the trailer and the door opened and the man appeared. SWAT team members began firing.

Sackett Wednesday night said the man was believed to have been holding an assault rifle in his hand as he stood at the door. Thursday’s press release did not include whether the man was armed as he stood at the door.

“Perceiving a threat and and fearing for their safety, SWAT team members engaged the suspect with their weapons. The suspect fell to the ground and after numerous attempts to communicate” the prone man was approached by SWAT team members and a medic, who determined he was dead, Sackett said.

Napa officers had tracked him to the trailer Tuesday, where he was with a woman, described as his girlfriend.

The couple had gone to the trailer on the rural lane off of Highway 12 Tuesday afternoon, after a friend apparently had arranged for them to stay with another man at the trailer.

That man escaped after officers arrived. He then told officers the man inside had a rifle, a handgun and body armor, Sackett said.

The couple were barricaded inside the trailer through the night. At about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday the man allowed the woman to leave.

She also hasn’t been identified.

Following a Sonoma County protocol by law enforcement agencies, deaths of suspects during a law enforcement event are investigated by other agencies.

Petaluma detectives are the lead investigators in the this case, aided by Santa Rosa and Sonoma County District Attorney’s investigators.


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