Sheriff's official apologizes to Sonoma family over attack on gay teen

Four weeks after a Sonoma Valley woman complained that sheriff's deputies downplayed the slur-laden assault, robbery and beating of her gay son by suspected gang members, the family has received a direct and unvarnished apology.

"A report wasn't taken that night, and it should have been," Sonoma County Sheriff's Capt. Rob Giordano told Kristin Land at a meeting of the county's Human Rights Commission. "That was our failure that night."

"I sit here with a little bit of egg on my face," added Giordano, who oversees the department's patrol division. "We are not perfect. We make mistakes."

He told Land and the commission an internal investigation has been ordered to determine why the Sonoma Valley deputies who responded to a report of street violence at El Verano School the night of March 29 did not write and submit a report, and whether they should be disciplined.

Aware that the commission would take up the issue of whether deputies failed to respond properly to an alleged hate crime, both District Attorney Jill Ravitch and Sonoma Valley supervisor Susan Gorin appeared at the session.

Gorin told the assembly she is glad that the sheriff's office "finally is taking it very seriously."

She added, "I have let enforcement know that I will be following up."

Ravitch said her office is pursuing convictions, with the added penalties that accompany a hate crime, of the two suspects — one an adult and one a juvenile — who stand charged with taking part in the attack on Land's 18-year-old son and several of his friends.

Land's son, a high school senior who is openly gay, went alone to El Verano School late that night a month ago to meet with friends who were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana there. He has said seven gang members taunted him with slurs about his sexual orientation, beat him and stole his wallet and cellphone.

He and his friends have said that when several of those friends came to his aid, the assailants attacked them, too.

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