Protesters during Saturday rally decry deaths of residents at hands of local law enforcement

Shortly after holding a 1 p.m. rally, participants placed large strips of paper with names of people they said were victims of police brutality and misconduct on the glass front door and windows of the county supervisors’ chambers.|

About 70 police accountability activists gathered Saturday afternoon at the Sonoma County Administration complex in Santa Rosa for a demonstration and protest to bring attention to local residents who have been killed by law enforcement.

Shortly after a 1 p.m. rally, participants placed large strips of paper with the names of 97 people they said have died, from 2000 to 2022, while in the custody of local law enforcement on the glass front door and windows of the county supervisors’ chambers.

One strip bore the name of David Pelaez-Chavez, a 36-year-old farmworker who was shot and killed July 29 by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Dietrick after a 45-minute foot chase through rugged terrain near Geyserville.

Another strip commemorated the death of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old boy who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy Oct. 22, 2013, while walking near a vacant lot and carrying an airsoft gun that resembled an AK-47.

Pelaez-Chavez’s family attended the Saturday rally, including his brother, Jose Pelaez, who spoke during the event.

“What we’re asking for is justice for my brother David,” said Jose Pelaez, speaking in Spanish. “The truth is, they didn’t need to do this to him. The way they killed him was really ugly. We’re asking for justice because we don’t want this to happen again.”

The event, organized by the North Bay Organizing Project’s police accountability task force, coincided with the nine-year anniversary of Lopez’s fatal shooting. But the event also marked a national day of protest against police brutality, organizers said.

Among other speakers at the rally was Jason Anglero-Wyrick, who was severely bitten by a sheriff’s K-9 during an April 2020 encounter with deputies in Graton.

The particularly violent arrest made national news after a bystander’s video showed the dog’s jaws remained clamped to Anglero-Wyrick’s leg for about a minute after he’d already been detained and handcuffed. The K-9’s handler was later disciplined for failing to stop his dog from continuing to bite the man.

At the Saturday rally, Anglero-Wyrick called for implementation of Measure P, a ballot measure approved by Sonoma County voters nearly two years ago to increase civilian oversight of local law enforcement. Supporters continue to struggle to get it implemented while opponents challenge it in court.

The measure was designed to grant broad new powers to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach to investigate allegations of wrongdoing involving the Sheriff’s Office.

“It seems to be endless in our communities what we have going on with the police,” Anglero-Wyrick said. “I don’t know how it’s going to end... we pushed for Measure P, everybody came out, it was signed and approved but there is still no accountability.”

Anglero-Wyrick’s daughter, D’Ayona Jerome, also spoke during the rally. Jerome, now 17 and a member of the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission for District 5, said the incident has left a lasting impression on her, though one she hopes to overcome.

“I’m standing up here today to share a major part of my life’s journey so far,” she said. “The cost to my family was beyond unacceptable and what they do to others that look like me — even people who haven’t had the chance to understand who they are — is all beyond unacceptable.”

Concepcion Dominguez, a friend and former neighbor of Andy Lopez’s family, said the pain of the 2013 fatal shooting can still be felt in her community.

“Today we remember it’s nine years without him,” she said, speaking in Spanish. “And it’s left a great pain, and the same things continue to happen. It’s hard to see what happened to Mr. Pelaez.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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