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Attorney: Rohnert Park officer in viral video will be vindicated

A Rohnert Park police officer placed under investigation after a widely viewed cellphone video of him drawing a weapon went viral defended his actions through an attorney Friday.

Officer Dave Rodriguez is confident his actions were “well within both the law and departmental policy and that he will be exonerated of any wrongdoing,” his attorney said in a written statement released Friday afternoon.

The statement comes one day after local attorneys representing the man who recorded the cellphone video, Don McComas, announced plans to file a civil rights claim against the city of Rohnert Park, while the city pledged to bring in an outside investigator to conduct a full review of the incident.

Rodriguez “looks forward to participating in an independent and objective review of his contact with Mr. McComas,” said his attorney, Doug Foley, with Pleasant Hill-based Rains Lucia Stern.

“While some aspects of their contact were captured on video, Officer Rodriguez is eager to share a complete accounting of the events which led to his contact with Mr. McComas as well as a complete description of what occurred during the recording,” Foley said.

Rodriguez cannot yet share his perspective on the encounter because he must first cooperate with investigators conducting reviews of the matter, according to Foley.

City officials and Rohnert Park Public Safety Department Director Brian Masterson have not yet said what brought Rodriguez to the quiet cul-de-sac on the north end of town, a factor that could clarify the officer’s actions and shed light on whether the officer acted within the scope of his duties when he brandished his service weapon.

Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz said there have been parking issues on that street, which could have brought a police officer to the area.

But the reasons behind Rodriguez’s actions, or what he may have been investigating, aren’t clear during the five-minute video taken July 29. McComas posted the video to his Facebook page that day, and the video has since been widely shared on various sites - on YouTube alone, videos of the encounter have been viewed more than 560,000 times.

McComas starts recording as Rodriguez, in a marked patrol vehicle, drives slowly down the street and stops the vehicle to face McComas, who is standing outside his house.

Rodriguez idles in his patrol SUV for nearly 90 seconds before powering down a window and pulling out what appears to be a phone or camera to take a picture.

He steps out and asks McComas to remove a hand from his pocket, but McComas refuses, prompting the officer to draw his weapon, pointing the barrel toward the ground.

McComas’ hand appears in the camera’s view within five seconds of the officer’s order as he places keys and another phone on the hood of a nearby SUV.

The men continue talking in an uneasy conversation that lasts about another two minutes until the officer leaves without arresting McComas or explaining why he was in the cul-de-sac.

McComas did not attend a press conference held Thursday by his attorneys, Daniel Beck and his son Jarin Beck, where they announced plans to sue the city. Daniel Beck said the Rohnert Park man was receiving medical attention and under doctors’ orders as a result of the July 29 encounter.

Rodriguez’s attorney works at the same firm that is representing Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who in 2013 shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who had an airsoft BB gun designed to look like an AK-47 assault rifle. The firm specializes in representing law enforcement and works with several local law enforcement unions, including in Rohnert Park, Cotati, Cloverdale and Santa Rosa, as well as the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

Daniel Beck referred to Lopez’s shooting death during Thursday’s press conference, and claimed there were comparisons to be made between the incidents.

In the statement, Foley said that Rodriguez and the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department have received an “outpouring of public support, and remain steadfast in their commitment to serving the citizens of Rohnert Park.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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