Man dies after struggle during arrest at Sonoma mobile home park

A man who was found yelling and breaking light fixtures while roaming naked around a Sonoma mobile home park died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency during a struggle with police who were trying to restrain him.|

A man who was found yelling and breaking light fixtures while roaming naked around a Sonoma mobile home park died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency during a late-night struggle with police who were trying to restrain him.

The incident turned the Sonoma Oaks mobile home park, a 55-plus retirement community south of Maxwell Farms Regional Park and west of Highway 12, into the site of Sonoma’s first officer-involved death in nearly a decade.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office contracts with the city of Sonoma to provide police services. The man was identified as Roderic Bernard Cameron, 44, who lived at the park with his mother, according to Santa Rosa Police Lt. John Cregan, whose department is investigating the incident, per countywide protocol.

The department has also requested assistance from the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, Cregan said.

“Our desire is to make sure that as many eyes as possible are doing a clear review of this incident to ensure that everything, the law and policies, were followed,” Cregan said.

Wednesday’s encounter began about 9:50 p.m. when deputies responded to reports of a suspicious person at the mobile home park on Ramon Street. Residents of the park had said the man was “yelling, breaking glass, and slamming into things,” and deputies learned while on their way to the scene that the suspect was reportedly unclothed and using his bare hands to punch out decorative street lamps, police said.

“He was walking through screaming, yelling and punching, breaking these light globes out,” Cregan said. “The suspect was bleeding profusely from his hands as a result of breaking these globes.”

Cregan said the suspect left a trail of blood on the ground and bloody handprints on the lights he was breaking.

Deputies found the suspect, who police described as “large” and naked, near the entrance to the park in the street, Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett said in a news release.

The man did not listen to police orders and began moving toward the deputies, who then shot him with their Taser weapons and engaged in a struggle to handcuff the suspect, Sackett said. He did not say how many deputies were involved, but Cregan said two deputies were initially involved and had called in backup as the encounter escalated.

The suspect continued to resist deputies as they sought to detain him, so they restrained his legs with a hobble device in an effort to gain control of the situation, Cregan said.

The man then “went into medical distress” and appeared not to be breathing, so deputies called emergency responders who were already on standby, Cregan said. Paramedics were on scene “within seconds” and they rushed the man to Sonoma Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Cregan said.

Because the Sonoma police services are provided by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, the decision was made to ask the Marin County coroner to handle the autopsy to “show that it is a completely independent investigation,” Cregan said.

He could not yet speak to exactly how the man was restrained, but he said standard practice calls for the hobble - typically a nylon cord about 6 feet long - to be wrapped around a suspect’s ankles and then connected either to handcuffs or a suspect’s waist.

“My understanding is that deputies applied the hobble in accordance with their training, but we’re still early in the investigation to determine that,” Cregan said. “We’ll determine that through the statements of all deputies involved and by a review of the body-worn cameras of all the deputies involved.”

Cregan said he believed all deputies involved in the incident were equipped with body-worn cameras and had activated them.

The deputies involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave. Their names were withheld Thursday, but Sackett said they would be released at a later date.

The last officer-involved death in the city of Sonoma occurred nearly 10 years ago when two Sonoma police officers and two sheriff’s deputies shot a rifle-wielding man, Craig Von Dohlen, 37, 10 times in front of his home on the 200 block of Napa Road in December 2008. Deputies were called to the scene by Van Dohlen’s father who reported that his son was in a psychological crisis.

The last Taser-related death in Sonoma County occurred in May when Rohnert Park police responded to a call of a man behaving strangely at a Redwood Drive motel.

Officers found Branch Wroth, 41, of Forestville, who told them he had been poisoned with chemicals. Wroth had a warrant out for his arrest.

He began to struggle when the officers attempted to put him in handcuffs. One officer stunned him six times with his stun gun. Wroth lost consciousness and paramedics weren’t able to revive him.

Methamphetamine was later found in his system. His family is suing Rohnert Park over the death.

In Sonoma on Thursday, Santa Rosa police cleared the scene at Sonoma Oaks just after 10 a.m., allowing residents to come and go for the first time in more than 12 hours.

Water and suds remained on the asphalt of the private drive where blood from the man’s cuts had been cleaned. Drops of blood and broken glass dotted the 200-yard stretch of Ramon Street where he had broken white globe-shaped light fixtures on lampposts with his hands.

Andre Guillory smoked a cigarette Thursday in front of his mobile home, about 20 feet from where the unidentified man died the night before. Glass from a broken light fixture was scattered on the crushed stone of his front yard.

“I heard a commotion and got up to see a big man running down the street screaming and yelling,” Guillory said.

He didn’t recognize the man but said he was tall and appeared to weigh about 300 pounds.

Guillory saw deputies try to subdue the man with Tasers and wrestle him to the ground. In the commotion it was unclear to him what exactly happened before the man died. A neighbor who declined to provide his name said the man had been “ranting and raving, yelling ‘Destroy! Destroy!’” but he didn’t see the confrontation with police.

Another resident who wished to only use her first name, Diane, said she saw the man “screaming and yelling” just after 9 p.m.

“I said ‘You better get out of here or I’ll call the police,’?” she said.

He didn’t, so she said she called police and went to bed. She didn’t know about the events that followed until police knocked on her door around 3:30 a.m. to ask her what she had seen.

Authorities are looking for anyone who witnessed the incident and anyone who might have cellphone video or other recordings to contact Santa Rosa police’s violent crimes unit at 707-543-3590.

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