Esa Wroth was wasted. He doesn’t dispute that.
But the 28-year-old Forestville man says he didn’t deserve what happened last year when he was arrested in Sonoma County on drunken-driving charges.
While he was being booked into the jail, the solar company consultant says, correctional deputies slammed him to the ground for no good reason. They punched and kicked him and shot him 20 times with electric stun guns.
The incident was captured in part in a 29-minute video that Wroth’s lawyer said is an alarming example of police brutality. It will be played next month to jurors when Wroth is tried on suspicion of assaulting a correctional deputy, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated.
Warning: Half-hour long video contains profanity
“It’s tantamount to torture,” Wroth’s lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger, said Tuesday. “From beginning to end, they are beating him. It’s just brutal.”
Jail officials said the level of force was appropriate given Wroth’s aggressive behavior when he was receiving a routine medical check upon entry to the jail.
Assistant Sheriff Randall Walker on Wednesday said the intoxicated man ripped off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pulse monitor from his finger and then backed into a nurse, attempting to bowl the nurse over.
Deputies tackled him to the floor and were preparing to put him in a restraint chair when he began physically resisting them, Walker said.
Deputies punched Wroth and shot him with Taser guns to get him to stop but he continued to struggle, Walker said.
At one point he pulled out the electric barbs, tried to grab a Taser gun and attempted to bite a deputy, Walker said.
Deputies responded with more control “strikes” and Taser shots, Walker said.
“Their actions are all reactions to his physical resistance,” Walker said.
Ultimately, Wroth was restrained without injury to himself or deputies, Walker said.
Prosecutors charged Wroth with felony assault on a correctional officer, but a judge reduced the allegations to misdemeanors after a preliminary hearing.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell declined to comment, citing the pending trial.
The night of the incident, Jan. 2, 2013, Wroth had been drinking at the Forestville Club.
When it was time to go home, Wroth maintains he handed his keys to an unnamed friend, who got behind the wheel and drove the two of them away from the club.
Somewhere on River Road, the friend crashed the car and fled on foot, Schwaiger said. Wroth stayed behind and was arrested on drunken-driving charges. Tests showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent — or more than twice the legal limit — about three hours after his arrest.
During booking, correctional deputies found Wroth was not following instructions and knocked him to the floor, Schwaiger said.
The video, made by a jail employee, begins as Wroth is being held face-down on the ground. It does not show what led up to the altercation. Walker said staff followed standard practice in recording the video when Wroth became physically aggressive. Schwaiger obtained the video from prosecutors.
It opens as four deputies are on his back and legs, trying to put shackles around his waist. Wroth complains, tries to roll over and is punched repeatedly in the back. As the struggle continues, deputies pull Taser guns and shoot him, shouting commands to stop resisting.
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