Nevada man in handcuffs breaks free of deputies, jumps to his death off Graton Casino parking garage
A handcuffed man detained early Monday as a suicide risk broke free of Sonoma County sheriff's deputies on the top floor of the Graton Resort and Casino parking garage and jumped to his death, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.
The fatal leap off the five-floor garage occurred minutes after deputies had pulled the man back from the building's edge and taken him into custody, the Sheriff's Office reported. He was identified on Monday as Geoffrey Wise Bertagnolli, 24, of Gardnerville, Nevada, the Sheriff's Office said.
The encounter began after deputies were called to the casino at 1:30 a.m. on a report about a man at the parking garage who appeared to be a suicide risk. Deputies drove into the area with their lights and sirens disabled to avoid startling the man. They found Bertagnolli standing on top of a 4-foot tall wall on the eastern side of the parking structure and talking to his wife nearby, the Sheriff's Office said.
It appeared Bertagnolli and his wife had been living out of their car recently, Sonoma County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Misti Wood said.
'The deputies started talking to the man, trying to figure out what was going on in his life and what was making him upset,' Wood said, adding that deputies were also trying to convince the man to safely step back from the building's edge.
The Sheriff's Office's Hostage Negotiations Team, along with fire and medical first responders, were also dispatched to the scene. Deputies continued to speak to Bertagnolli until about 2:02 a.m., when they were able to grab him off the wall while he was distracted, Wood said.
Authorities handcuffed him, placed him on a psychological hold and prepared to transport him to a hospital or crisis stabilization unit. Hostage negotiators along with fire and medical teams were relieved from the call.
Deputies continued to speak to Bertagnolli for about 10 minutes in order to deescalate the situation, Wood said. They then started to walk Bertagnolli to a patrol car, but he broke free, sending deputies running after him. Bertagnolli , who was still handcuffed, dove over the edge of the garage wall and off the top of the parking garage, the sheriff's office said. He died instantly from the fall, the department said.
Seven deputies were sent to the call, Wood said. She was not able to immediately say how many of them were escorting the man when he broke free while in custody. Those on the call will be interviewed by Sheriff's Office investigators about the incident on Tuesday, she added.
The department's violent crimes unit is investigating Bertagnolli's death to determine if any crime was committed. The office will also conduct an administrative review of the in-custody death, which will look at whether deputies followed the agency's policies, Wood said.
The Marin County Coroner's Office will perform an autopsy of Bertagnolli, a standard procedure done to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, which operates the local coroner's office, Wood said.