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Deputy disciplined for failing to remove K-9 from Graton man’s leg

A Sonoma County sheriff's K-9 handler was disciplined after he failed to stop his dog from continuing to bite a Graton man well after the man had been handcuffed, according to the findings of an internal affairs use-of-force investigation of the April 2020 incident.

The particularly violent arrest made national news after a bystander’s video showed that the dog’s jaws remained clamped to Jason Anglero-Wyrick’s leg for about a minute after he’d already been detained.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office internal affairs investigation report, which was released Tuesday in response to a Press Democrat public records request, also faulted two other deputies involved in the arrest for failing to correctly use their body-worn cameras.

And, it determined that the initial accusations made in a 911 call that prompted deputies to arrest Anglero-Wyrick were baseless.

Deputies went to Anglero-Wyrick’s Graton home on April 4, 2020 in response to a 911 call from a Forestville man, who had accused Anglero-Wyrick of pointing a gun at him and his wife as he rode in a car past their home.

Upon arrival at Anglero-Wyrick’s home, deputies ordered him to get down on the ground, however, Anglero-Wyrick remained standing with his hands raised. When he did not obey their orders, deputies stunned him and released the dog, Vader, to subdue him.

A subsequent search of Anglero-Wyrick’s Graton property, which was conducted after the man’s arrest and the arrest of his fiancee, who was also present, did not turn up a firearm.

And when a deputy later questioned the person who called 911, the report stated, the person admitted he wasn’t sure who pointed a gun at him and his wife.

“I’m going to be straight with you. I don’t know,” the person who made the 911 told Deputy Phil Brazis, who wrote a summary of his conversation with the man included in the report. “You’re right, I don’t know who was in the car. They were both wearing masks. I don't know if they had a gun.”

Bystander video made public and deputies’ body-worn camera footage of the April 2020 incident show Anglero-Wyrick raise his hands in the air as deputies approached the front of his home and shouted orders for him to get on the ground.

His fiancee, Naustachia Green, positions herself in front of him with her hands raised saying “he didn’t do anything. Anglero-Wyrick moves past Green for a moment before she walks back in front of him, the footage shows.

Deputy Nicholas Miller deploys his Taser, causing Anglero-Wyrick to fall to the ground and Deputy Jeremy Jucutan, the K-9 handler, releases Vader, the dog, on Anglero-Wyrick almost immediately after.

Meanwhile, another deputy grabs Green and pulls her to the ground and he and Sgt. Brian Parks, struggle to detain her, the video shows.

Both Miller and Jucutan said they used force on Anglero-Wyrick, who they said had a history of being aggressive toward deputies, because they feared he might try to flee, the report showed. Dispatchers had also notified deputies of Anglero-Wyrick’s past contacts with law enforcement, the report also said.

“I felt the deployment of the Taser was necessary to keep Anglero-Wyrick from escaping, arming himself, barricading himself and/or causing further risk and danger to himself, his family, and neighbors, as well as responding and on scene deputies,” Miller wrote in a summary report the day of the arrest.

Anglero-Wyrick was arrested on two felony counts of resisting arrest by means of threats and violence, and Green was also arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer, though both cases were eventually dismissed. Neither Anglero-Wyrick nor Green were charged in connection with the allegations made in the original 911 call.

In his summary report of the incident, Jucutan said he gave Vader multiple verbal commands and tried to physically force the dog to release his bite, without success, as Anglero-Wyrick, Green and other residents of the home screamed “which added to the chaotic scene.”

In an interview with internal affairs investigators a month after the incident, Jucutan added that he attempted to use a remote for an electronic collar on Vader but found it had no effect.

He guessed that a toggle switch on the remote may have moved to a different setting, causing it to disconnect from the collar.

Internal affairs investigators found Jucutan had followed the department’s policies in deciding to deploy Vader and had not used excessive force, though they sustained an allegation that he did not follow the department’s rules regarding a handler’s duty to make sure K-9’s release a suspect when they are in custody and no longer a threat.

The investigation also found Miller appropriately used his Taser.

The finding is in direct opposition of a federal civil rights case filed in March, which accuses both Miller and Jucutan of excessive force in using the stun gun and setting Vader onto Anglero-Wyrick, actions that caused him long-term physical injuries.

Izaak Schwaiger, who is representing Anglero-Wyrick in the case, also questioned at the validity of the internal affairs investigation, saying the Sheriff’s Office has a “laughable history” when it comes to conducting such reviews, which he said were biased from the start.

He also chided the deputies for failing to determine the legitimacy of the initial report.

“Someone could get hurt if you ignore important information,” Schwaiger said. “But if (deputies) take uncorroborated accusations as gospel, somebody can get hurt too, and that’s what happened here. But these deputies care a whole lot more about their safety than the public’s safety.”

Sgt. Juan Valencia, the sheriff’s office spokesman, defended the deputies’ actions, saying they were working on the information they had at the time.

“This person called and said ’Hey, I’m a victim of a crime,’” Valencia said of the 911 caller. “We still have a duty to investigate.”

Both Miller and Parks, the sergeant, faced discipline related to the use of their body-worn cameras. Miller, according to the report, failed to turn on his camera until after deploying his Taser, though he told investigators he thought he had turned it on soon after he arrived to the Graton home.

There was also a delay in when Parks turned on his camera, which he explained was caused because of the urgency of the situation he was faced with. Parks switched off his device on two occasions after the arrests.

The first was to ask a deputy with prior K-9 experience to “mentor and help” Jucutan in the aftermath of the K-9 deployment. The second was to speak to Jucutan about the incident, he told internal investigators.

“I wanted to reassure Deputy Jucutan that I was there to support him should he need anything,” Parks wrote in a statement when asked by investigators about the camera’s deactivation.

Valencia confirmed Miller, Parks and Jucutan were disciplined in connection with the Graton incident, though peace officer rights prohibited the agency from releasing details about what type of discipline was imposed, he said.

Each continues to work for the agency, and Vader and Jucutan returned to patrol after being re-certified after the incident, Valencia said.

The internal affairs investigation considered other allegations against Parks, Jucutan, Miller and two other deputies who responded to Anglero-Wyrick’s home, but the deputies were either exonerated or investigators determined the claims were unfounded.

Karlene Navarro, the county’s law enforcement auditor, said in an email Wednesday that her office is currently reviewing the internal affairs investigation.

In a prior interview about the federal lawsuit, she said she expected to review portions of the investigation that had to do with social media posts made by the Sheriff’s Office about the case.

“Vader did a great job time for a treat,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote in response to a Facebook comment on their post about the incident, which was later edited.

Files related to the Sheriff Office’s review of social media posts about the incident were not released to the Press Democrat on this week. Valencia said that component of the investigation wasn’t covered by the state law that requires agencies to disclose records regarding peace officer’s use of force.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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