SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) – A Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy has been fired, and may face criminal charges, in what the Sheriff admits is a blatant case of excessive force.
The victim was tased and beaten in his own home as deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call.
“I do believe this is an anomaly and I do understand people are upset, just like me,” Sheriff Steve Freitas told KTVU, “and we’ve reached out to the man involved, and apologized directly.”
Video from body-worn cameras revealed the misconduct.
Three deputies responded to the call last month in Boyes Hot Springs in the Sonoma Valley.
Someone had reported a couple’s arguing loudly in their home.
Deputies learned immediately that it was only verbal; neither husband nor wife had laid a hand on the other.
Freitas says that’s when the deputies should have left, but instead:
“This gentleman was on his bed. And the deputy was telling him to get off and he wouldn’t. And the deputy grabbed him and a struggle started, and the deputy ended up using excessive force.”
The 37-year-old man was struck on his back and legs with a baton, and tasered a few times too.
“This was a home invasion, ” attorney Izaak Schwaiger told KTVU, “and my client is lucky to be alive.”
Schwaiger says the victim suffered broken ribs and his torso is scarred from the surgical removal of the tasers.
“His entire backside was covered with bruises in the shape of batons,” elaborated Schwaiger, “and it’s a disgusting, sickening use of violence against an entirely innocent man who was unarmed, and did nothing to provoke deputies.”
The man was jailed for resisting, but when the District Attorney reviewed the case, prosecutors pursued no charges.
Instead, there was concern about what the video showed.
Deputy Scott Thorne, with only six months in the department, was suspended last week and let go on Monday.
The other two deputies, with more seniority, remain working.
“We’ll be looking into that idea, of what people did or should have done,” admitted Freitas, troubled that all three remained silent about what happened, until confronted.
“While it is a distressing event, I think we’ve handled it in an open, honest, swift manner and someone’s been held accountable,” declared Freitas.
The Sheriff also praises body worn cameras, in use for about a year.
In a recent case, such video cleared one of his deputies of wrongdoing and helped convict two people who scuffled with him.
But attorney Schwaiger believes the department has an ongoing problem with excessive force.
He represents several plaintiffs in an ongoing Federal lawsuit, alleging beatings by jail guards, detailed in letters from inmates to loved ones.
Schwaiger expressed optimism about the new case.
“The Sheriff did issue an apology to the client and said he takes the matter seriously. We’re encouraged by his commitment to this investigation and hopefully he’ll do the right thing.”
Santa Rosa Police detectives are conducting the criminal investigation into Scott Thorne, which result in charges of assault with deadly weapon or assault under color of law.