A video clip of a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy punching and trying to restrain a Cotati man who was on the ground near Guerneville has spread through social media at a time when high-profile shootings have launched a national conversation about law enforcement use-of-force.
The 21-second clip, which was taken Saturday and posted on the Santa Rosa Copwatch Facebook page, depicts a moment when two deputies are on the ground trying to restrain Jonathan Carrozzo, 31, who eventually was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of public drunkenness and resisting arrest.
The video was taken by a passing motorist who said he was disturbed by what he saw during the encounter.
The Sheriff’s Office released its account of the incident on Wednesday in response to media requests. Sgt. Cecile Focha, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the two punches shown on the video were “distraction jabs” used to get people to “stop what they’re doing.”
Several attempts to reach Carrozzo by phone and email were unsuccessful.
Focha said the deputies had been trying to help the intoxicated man get a ride home when Carrozzo became agitated and “squared off” at them, leading them to restrain him. Carrozzo later spoke to three Sheriff’s Office sergeants and each time apologized for his conduct and declined to file a complaint against the deputies, according to Focha.
The man who took the video said he was driving home on eastbound River Road when he saw “someone swinging, arm up and down, punching somebody.”
The man, a local business owner, said he didn’t want to be identified publicly because he didn’t want his involvement in the matter to affect his business. He pulled over and started taking video on his phone when he realized two deputies were striking a man on the ground.
“It was pretty brutal if you ask me,” the man said. “He was crying and saying ‘I’m sorry.’”
After posting the video to his private Facebook page, he gave it to local attorney Dave Jake Schwartz, who posted the video to the Santa Rosa Copwatch page on Facebook on Sunday afternoon. The Copwatch page, which has been a hub of communication by people concerned about the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy, is a forum about police accountability.