Sonoma County deputy to be fired after violent altercation that left mistaken suspect dead
Footage from the Sonoma County Sheriff shows a deputy slamming the head of a man on a car door.
A Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy was given a notice of termination for his involvement in a violent altercation with a mistaken carjacking suspect that resulted in the man’s death.
Footage from another deputy’s body camera shows Deputy Charlie Blount slamming the head of the suspect on the door of his vehicle while the man is simultaneously jolted with a Taser by another officer. The footage also shows Blount trying to pull the man through the car window and wrapping him in a chokehold.
“The way Deputy Blount handles the situation is extremely troubling,” Sheriff Mark Essick said in a video statement Friday. “Please know that this one person does not reflect the culture of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and does not reflect the hardworking men and women that work here.”
Essick said Blount was given his notice of termination on Thursday afternoon, the same day that the department concluded its own internal investigation of the incident. It was unclear if Blount could face criminal charges or possible civil action.
Deputies responded to calls from Santa Rosa police Nov. 27 that a vehicle stolen in a carjacking a few days earlier was seen being driven in the area. In his statement, Essick said deputies didn’t know that the driver of the car, David Ward, was the victim of the carjacking.
The sheriff said Ward had found his vehicle earlier but had not reported it.
When deputies tried to pull Ward over, he stopped momentarily and then sped up, prompting a pursuit, authorities said. The chase at times reached speeds over 70 mph before it ended at a dead end near Sutton Street and Hillview Street, authorities said.
Blount then approached the Honda with his weapon drawn and instructed Ward to unlock the door, according to authorities and video footage of the incident. Ward, whose face appears to have a black eye in the video, rolls down this window and says, “I can’t believe this, I’m the injured party in this.”
Blount can then be seen in the video grabbing Ward’s arm and attempting to pull him out of the window. Ward can be heard moaning and then yelling, “My legs, my legs.” He then bites Blount and another deputy during the altercation.
The video shows Blount grabbing Ward by the hair and slamming his head against the top part of the door. Another deputy can be seen using a Taser on Ward at the same time.
Deputies and police officers then placed Ward on the grass and handcuffed him as he lay unconscious.
One deputy recognized Ward as the victim of the carjacking while another questioned why he ran.
During the conversation, Blount responded, “Oh well.”
When the officers noticed Ward had stopped breathing, they began performing CPR. Ward was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Marin County Coroner’s Office is investigating the cause of death.
Essick said on Friday that he had spoken with Ward’s mother and offered his condolences.
The sheriff said he previously withheld the videotape of the incident because he wanted investigators to interview everyone involved first.
“Releasing the video of that incident prior to interviewing some of the deputies could have tainted their statements,” he said. He added that the conduct of every person involved will be investigated.
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