Man dies following pursuit after pulling gun in Petaluma bar

A confrontation over touching at a bar near Petaluma Monday night led to fiery wreck that closed Highway 1 south of Bodega Bay for hours.|

A man who reportedly pulled out a handgun at a bar north of Petaluma in an apparently misguided act of chivalry died Monday evening after a high-speed chase that ended when his station wagon crashed into a tree south of Bodega Bay and erupted into a fireball.

The incident began at about 6:25 p.m. at the Washoe House bar on Stony Point Road when a man in his late 20s became enraged after he saw another man touching the bartender on the arm.

“He had just come in and took two sips of beer,” bartender Candace England said. “He saw the guy touch my hand, and he freaked out on him.”

The other patron was a regular customer and the touching was neither inappropriate nor unwelcome, England said.

When she went into the kitchen to talk to the cook, the handful of bar patrons reported that the man took out a revolver and put it on the bar, England said.

A few moments later, the man came outside to where England was talking to the cook and said the men in the bar “shouldn’t be putting their hands on a woman,” England recalled.

At that point he showed them the gun and said, “I thought I was going to have to use this on him,” England recalled.

They told the man to leave, and he sped out of the parking lot in a Subaru wagon, England said.

A sheriff’s deputy spotted the car moments later nearby and followed the vehicle in a chase that at one point reached speeds of 100 mph, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Brown said.

Somewhere around Walker Road and Pepper Lane, the deputy spotted the man throwing something out of the vehicle, Brown said. Investigators were trying to locate the item and determine if it was the gun, Brown said.

The chase continued toward the coast and northbound on Highway 1. Just past the intersection with Bodega Avenue, the wagon drove off the left side of the road, down an embankment, struck a tree and burst into flames, Brown said.

Because of the fire and unsure if the driver still had a gun, the deputy was unable to rescue the driver from the car and the man died in the ensuing fireball, Brown said.

Firefighters spotted a plume of black smoke rising from a mile away, and when they arrived found the car fully engulfed in flames, Bodega Fire Chief Ron Albini said.

“The flames were 10 to 15 feet above the roof,” Albini said. “There was no rescue at that point.”

The fire scorched the trunk of the dead tree and some surrounding vegetation, but firefighters quickly extinguished it, Albini said.

Highway 1 was closed for several hours due to the accident and follow-up investigation.

The driver had yet to be identified Monday evening. The CHP said the Subaru was registered in Bodega Bay.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette