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Nine Santa Rosa officers on paid leave amid new in-custody death investigation

Eight Santa Rosa police officers and a sergeant who were involved in detaining Jordon Pas, 40, before he died in police custody early Thursday morning are on paid administrative leave, Santa Rosa Police Chief Ray Navarro said Friday.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death, which occurred after at least one officer shocked Pas with a stun gun as officers tried to detain him during a confrontation with authorities in a Roseland cul-de-sac.

Officers were called to Peach Court when residents reported a man roaming the neighborhood with a rifle and firing shots, seemingly at random, according to police and residents. No one was hurt in the gunfire, according to sheriff’s officials.

Navarro pledged transparency as the department conducts its own internal investigations of the incident, which will focus on whether officers followed department policy. The sheriff’s office is focused on whether police officers broke any laws. Officers are routinely placed on leave during use of force investigations.

“Nobody wants to have something like this happen,” Navarro said. “We want to be transparent in everything that we do and we know the community expects that of us.”

Pas was not holding a firearm when he was confronted by law enforcement about 1:30 a.m., though authorities say they later recovered a rifle and drugs in the area during a search Thursday morning. According to three eyewitnesses, detectives found the rifle on a lawn along the cul-de-sac.

An autopsy of Pas is underway, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Juan Valencia said Friday, but results could take as long as four to six weeks.

A woman who identified herself as Pas’ mother-in-law but declined to provide her name said the community should not rush to judge the Santa Rosa man based on that night’s events.

“He was a good man and a hardworking man,” she said of Pas, speaking to a reporter in front of a home where friends and relatives grieved inside.

“Everybody has good and bad and he definitely had more good,” she said. The woman declined to comment further, saying the family was focused on mourning.

The residence, which is listed as Pas’ last known address in public records, was within blocks of the cul-de-sac where police encountered Pas. He was pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital, according to police.

Three Peach Court residents, Edgar Gudino, James Wilkinson and Mike Sommers, told The Press Democrat that immediately before police arrived Pas was seen moving around the neighborhood with a rifle, shouting and firing at random. Neighbors interviewed Thursday said they heard 7 to 10 gunshots. One put a bullet hole in the hood of a white Honda parked in a cul-de-sac driveway. It’s unclear where other shots landed.

On Thursday, police said they were investigating why Pas was in the area.

Pas had been charged with felony evading police and misdemeanor DUI and property damage charges stemming from an incident in July. He entered a not guilty plea in October and the case was set for a preliminary hearing in December, court records show.

Videos captured by a home security camera on the cul-de-sac minutes before Pas engaged with police show a man, without a rifle at that time, rummaging through a yard, throwing garden items, and picking up a rock. The man yells incoherently and appears intoxicated or in the grips of a behavioral crisis.

When officers confronted him, the man was holding “what appeared to be a large landscaping rock in his hand,” Santa Rosa police said in a news release.

Another video taken by a resident and shared with The Press Democrat shows Pas moving erratically in the beams of police flashlights and spotlights as officers approach him. In the video, the man goes to his knees after being shocked by what appears to be a stun gun. He then collapses face down to the pavement of the cul-de-sac where he is swarmed by officers.

Officers deployed a stun gun on Pas at least once, Valencia said. Witnesses to the encounter told The Press Democrat they believe the man was hit at least twice.

The man had “a medical emergency” shortly after he was handcuffed, according to an initial Santa Rosa police news release.

“We got medical there as quickly as possible,” Navarro said Friday, while declining to discuss details of the case given the ongoing investigation. Santa Rosa police responded to the 911 calls as an “active shooter” situation, Navarro said.

“I know the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office will do a complete and thorough job,” he said of the investigation.

The department would publish the names of officers involved this coming week, Navarro said. He would be publishing body camera footage and other information as state law and police procedure dictated.

“We’ll get the info out as soon as we can,” he said. California law gives law enforcement agencies 45 days to publicly disclose body camera footage in cases involving serious injury or loss of life.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

Andrew Graham

Business enterprise and investigations, The Press Democrat 

I dig into businesses, utility companies and nonprofits to learn how their actions, or inactions, impact the lives of North Bay residents. I’m looking to dive deep into public utilities, labor struggles and real estate deals. I try to approach my work with the journalism axioms of giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable in mind.

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