More than 100 people join SR rally marking in-custody deaths

  • Protestors assembled in Courthouse Square for a 6 pm rally against police brutality and other issues after walking from Southwest Community Park earlier in the evening. (Press Democrat/ Mark Aronoff)

More than 100 people rallied Monday evening at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, protesting alleged police brutality on the part of local law enforcement.

The rally, partly organized by Cop Watch groups in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, coincided with similar demonstrations elsewhere protesting police shootings and in-custody deaths.

Sonoma County has had four officer-involved shootings and three deaths in custody this year, including two controversial shootings involving people having mental health crises.

Sheriff's Capt. Dave Edmonds said allegations of brutality by local law enforcement are unfounded and inflammatory. The groups organizing the rallies are "anti-law enforcement," he said.

"To blame law enforcement for doing its job in protecting the public and drawing conclusions that law enforcement is baseline wrong anytime we use force is very unfair," Edmonds said.

The Santa Rosa rally followed a march from Southwest Community Park, with participants stopping at the Roseland house where Richard DeSantis, an unarmed, bipolar man was shot and killed by Santa Rosa police April 9. Flowers were laid at the site.

Adrianne DeSantis, Richard's mother, participated in the march and rally dressed in black. She brought with her large portraits of her son. One of them was of DeSantis' casket carried by pallbearers. "I'm here because I believe in marching against injustice," she said.

DeSantis has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the city and the officers, alleging use of excessive force.

Other family members in the march included relatives of Ryan George, a 22-year-old inmate with sickle cell anemia who died July 9, six days after being sent back to jail from Sutter Medical Center.

The family blames George's death on law enforcement, and health professionals at Sutter Medical Center.

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