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Sonoma County deputies arrest carjacking suspect connected to man who died in sheriff's custody

Sonoma County sheriff's deputies arrested a man over the weekend who they suspect punched, kicked, pistol-whipped and carjacked a Bloomfield man in late November, three days before the victim died during a violent encounter with deputies and Sebastopol police officers that is the subject of an independent investigation by Santa Rosa Police Department.

Driden Estrada, 32, of Sonoma was arrested during a probation search about 8 p.m. Saturday at a home in the 20000 block of Fifth Street East in Sonoma and then booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of felony battery causing serious bodily injury and vehicle theft, Sonoma County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Juan Valencia said.

Estrada, who is being held on $69,000 bail, also has two outstanding arrest warrants connected to probation violations for prior misdemeanor cases, Valencia said.

He is scheduled to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon for his arrest in the alleged beating of David Ward, 52, the suspected theft of Ward's car, as well as the two probation violations connected to passing a fake check in 2017 and pleading no contest to carrying a concealed dagger in 2018, court records show.

His arrest came nearly two weeks after deputies responded to a call from a home in the 10000 block of Mill Street in Bloomfield the day before Thanksgiving.

Ward told them he was beaten earlier that day by a man who had lived with him for about two months and was his caretaker. The man, whom authorities think is Estrada, took off with Ward's 2003 green Honda Civic.

Though Ward could not name the man after deputies responded to his call, he did provide a description of his attacker and was able to later identify Estrada from a photo lineup, Valencia said.

'They've been looking for him,' Valencia said of investigators' efforts to find Estrada.

Valencia said he did not know where Estrada went with the Honda Civic after he allegedly assaulted Ward, or how Ward then ended up in the driver's seat of his allegedly stolen vehicle three days later on Nov. 27.

That day, Ward led two Sebastopol police officers and Sheriff's Deputy Jason Little who was notified about the stolen car on a chase through west county.

The chase ended in Bloomfield, northwest of Petaluma, when Little and the police officers blocked in Ward with their vehicles. Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Blount arrived at the scene within minutes and with Little, the two deputies tried to get Ward to open the car door but he refused and the encounter escalated.

Blount and Little attempted to pull Ward out of his Honda through a window. Police said Ward did not tell the deputies he had retrieved his stolen car and was driving it home, but did say he was the 'injured party.'

After refusing to open his car door and deputies hitting Ward with their fists, elbows and knees and him biting them, Little fired a taser at Ward.

While one of the Sebastopol officers broke the front passenger window of Ward's Honda allowing the officer to open the door, Blount placed one of his arms around Ward's neck in an attempt to put him in a carotid hold — a rarely used maneuver to knock a person unconscious but if done incorrectly can block a person's airways. The group removed Ward from his car and placed him in handcuffs.

A deputy told dispatchers that Ward did not appear to be breathing and CPR was started. Ward was transported to a Petaluma hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later. The cause of his death is not yet publicly known.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office allows the carotid hold in its force policy, but deputies are told to avoid the tactic on people like pregnant women or the elderly unless there are no better options.

Blount has past allegations of using excessive force, including applying a similar neck hold on a woman and man in separate 2015 incidents.

Both Blount and Little are on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the independent Santa Rosa police investigation of their deadly encounter with Ward. Last week, Valencia said he could not comment on Blount's personnel records.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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