Petaluma man’s family disputes police account that he charged officers, injuring them
Family members of a Petaluma man accused of assaulting police officers on Christmas night say he was in a state of mental health crisis when police provoked a scuffle with him that led to his arrest.
Brent Taylor, 36, of Petaluma, was arrested about 10 p.m. Tuesday night outside his home on the 2800 block of Western Avenue in Petaluma, police said. He was booked into Sonoma County Jail on two felony counts of threatening a police officer and two misdemeanor counts of battery on a police officer.
Police said in a statement early Wednesday that Taylor “charged” them and attacked several officers. But two family members who witnessed the incident say that didn’t happen.
“The police say he had his arms in the air, with fists, and he assaulted two police officers. That’s a lie,” said his mother, Sherry Taylor, who saw what occurred.
Taylor said her son was drunk at the time of the incident, but he also suffers from Huntington’s disease, a rare genetic brain disorder that can cause impaired judgment and extreme mood swings. She and Laura Taylor, Brent Taylor’s wife, tried to explain to police that Taylor’s irrational behavior was due to his illness and he needed help, but they say police didn’t listen.
According to the Taylors, the incident began when Brent Taylor got in an argument with a family member at Christmas dinner at a relative’s home. Agitated, he decided to walk home by himself. Laura Taylor said she drove around and found him, but he refused to get in the car, so she called police and explained that her husband needed help. Several other callers reported a man was walking in the road and yelling at cars, police said.
By the time police arrived, Brent Taylor was at home, Laura Taylor said, and police had blocked off the street. There were at least 10 officers on her property, she said, from the Petaluma Police Department, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol.
“I just explained I do not wish for you to hurt him. I just want you to help him. He had been drinking, and he has dementia,” she said.
She said her husband came out to see what the commotion was about and began yelling at police officers, but kept his hands at his sides and never raised them. Sherry Taylor, his mother, tried to put herself between the officers and her son, and Laura Taylor pulled her away, at which point they say five to seven officers tackled him.
Laura Taylor said officers repeatedly yelled at Brent Taylor to stop resisting arrest, and yelled at him to stop doing things he physically could not have been doing, such as yelling at him to stop kicking when his legs were doubled over on his chest and he was unable to move them. She said that she did not see everything that happened after police tackled him, and he may have struggled with officers, but that he posed no threat and was not physically combative before the officers tackled him.
She said officers “taunted” her husband about his prior criminal record, which included serving time in prison 15 to 20 years ago, and while he was restrained under the dogpile of officers, one officer circled around the outside threatening to tase him. Before they put him in the police car, his wife said, one officer “started talking garbage to him about how he has children and he’s just a piece of shit,” causing him to become agitated again.
Through tears, Laura Taylor said she had called police expecting them to offer assistance to her husband.
“I was raised that the police are going to help you, and they’re good people and to call them when you can’t do it yourself, and that’s what I did,” she said.
Sherry Taylor, Brent Taylor’s mother, said after police tackled her son, she tried to speak with him to tell him to calm down, and one officer grabbed her very roughly and told her not to speak to her son.
“I don’t think it’s right for a strong police officer to manhandle a 115-pound, 71-year-old woman, who wasn’t doing anything except yelling at her son to calm down,” she said.
Sherry Taylor, who is a retired intensive-care nurse, said her husband died of Huntington’s and three of her four children have been diagnosed with it. She said her husband was picked up numerous times by Petaluma police who mistakenly believed he was drunk because of slurred speech and other symptoms of the disease.
Regarding her son, Taylor called Petaluma police Wednesday morning and asked to see officers’ body-camera footage of the incident Tuesday night, but police declined to let her view it. Police assured her there will be an investigation of what occurred between her son and the officers.
Although Petaluma police Wednesday morning released a statement and commented on the incident, police did not respond Wednesday afternoon or evening to multiple requests from The Press Democrat for comment about the Taylors’ version of the events leading to Brent Taylor’s arrest.
He is being held in Sonoma County Jail on $10,000 bail, which Sherry Taylor said the family will be unable to pay because they have exhausted their resources paying medical bills.
“I’m so angry as a mother,” she said. “It’s just so unjust.”
Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.