Former Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy arrested in alleged on-duty assault
A former Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy suspected of beating a Boyes Hot Springs man in his home during a domestic dispute call was jailed early Wednesday on suspicion of felony assault by an officer after a three-month investigation into excessive force.
Scott Thorne, 40, of Walnut Creek turned himself in at the Sonoma County Jail just after 12 a.m. after learning the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office secured a warrant for his arrest. Thorne was released about two hours later on $10,000 bail, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum said.
Thorne, reached by phone Wednesday, declined to comment or provide the name of an attorney. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 17 on the felony charge.
Thorne’s actions came under suspicion about two weeks after the Sept. 24 incident when prosecutors reviewed deputies’ body camera recordings and declined to file charges against the Boyes Hot Springs resident, a 37-year-old Marine Corps veteran and former law enforcement officer who was arrested after the incident for resisting officers. That led Sheriff’s Office supervisors to review the recordings, including footage that raised concerns about Thorne’s actions, sheriff’s officials said.
Soon after, Thorne left the job. State law prevents the county from saying whether he resigned or was fired.
Sheriff Steve Freitas, responding through spokesman Crum, said his office “initiated the criminal investigation (into Thorne) and fully cooperated with investigators.”
“Sheriff Freitas … accepts the decision of the D.A.” to charge Thorne with felony assault, Crum said.
The case has led the Sheriff’s Office to change some of its oversight practices. Supervisors are now required to review all incidents when deputies report force was used or a person resisted arrest. Previously, not every case was reviewed.
Two other deputies who responded with Thorne to the Highland Boulevard house Sept. 24 after a neighbor’s 911 call - reporting what sounded like an argument - remain on duty.
Crum said the Sheriff’s Office is still in the midst of an internal review of the actions of the deputies, Beau Zastrow and Anthony Diehm. That review is focused on whether they followed department policy and does not include Thorne.
After reviewing evidence in the case, prosecutors have not yet found probable cause that Zastrow or Diehm committed any crimes, Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said. He stopped short of saying the investigation into their actions was over. Police have said they were investigating potential excessive force as well as the integrity of written police reports.
“We’re not filing charges, as of today, on the other two deputies,” Staebell said.
The Boyes Hot Springs man captured some of the ordeal on his cellphone, and that video has been given to Santa Rosa police and District Attorney’s investigators, according to his attorney Izaak Schwaiger. He declined to share the recording with The Press Democrat or identify his client.
The man is still recovering from injuries sustained when he was beaten and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun, according to Schwaiger.
“There’s also the psychological trauma when someone comes into your own home, into your bedroom and commits this kind of violence,” Schwaiger said.
The 911 call came about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 24 from a neighbor who overheard what sounded like a heated argument at the couple’s home, according to the Sheriff’s Office account.
A woman answered the door when the three deputies arrived. Diehm spoke to the woman while Thorne and Zastrow went to the back of the house looking for her husband, who was in a locked bedroom and refused to come out.
Thorne forced his way into the bedroom where the man lay on the bed. Thorne grabbed the man’s arm when he refused to get up, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The man pulled away, and Thorne shocked him with a stun gun, but it had little effect on the man, who sat up and pulled out the Taser wires, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Thorne then used his baton and hit the man in the leg, officials said. Thorne and Zastrow tried to physically restrain the man on the bed and the third deputy, Diehm, came to the room to assist.
Thorne swung his baton several times, striking the man in the back after he broke free from his grasp and ran toward the door, officials said. He fell to the ground and a struggle continued. Diehm fired his Taser at the man, and they were able to handcuff him.
He was taken to the hospital for injuries including bruising, swelling and welts at a hospital then booked into jail on suspicion of threatening an officer, battery and obstructing an officer. He was released on $10,000 bail.
Prosecutors declined to file charges against the man several weeks later after reviewing the body camera footage, launching an internal investigation with the Sheriff’s Office.
Thorne left the job within about two weeks of the Sept. 24 call.
He previously worked for the Richmond Police Department for 10 months ending in May 2002. He has since held a license to work as a guard and a firearm permit with the state Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.
Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff’s Association President Mike Vail said Zastrow and Diehm are being represented by attorneys with Pleasant Hill-based law firm Rains Lucia Stern. Representatives from the law firm didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Vail said he was not privy to details about the case but is confident in the department’s review of the case and any allegations of misconduct.
“If the Sheriff’s Office felt that (Zastrow and Diehm) acted inappropriately to the point where it would be improper for them to do this job, I’m sure the office would have taken them off the street,” Vail said.
Jerry Threet, director of the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach, said his look at the incident will begin once the Sheriff’s Office has completed its internal review.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjpressdem.
UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy: