Sonoma County sheriff, city of Santa Rosa release new records on use-of-force cases
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department separately released files Tuesday detailing internal investigations in a range of cases involving use of deadly force by deputies and officers, including five in which the civilians died.
The Sheriff's Office's disclosure included investigation records in seven cases where suspects were seriously injured or died in encounters with deputies. The Police Department released files relating to a single case in 2016 in which an officer shot a 15-year-old boy in the foot.
No policy violations were found in any of the cases, according to the records. In all the cases, District Attorney Jill Ravitch's office either cleared the involved officers or declined to prosecute.
Included in the Sheriff's Office files were 146 pages of supplemental records from the department's internal investigation into the fatal 2013 shooting of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old Santa Rosa teen who was fatally shot by then-Deputy Erick Gelhaus.
The Lopez records primarily consist of Sheriff's Office policy and training documents, not specific to the Lopez case, outlining procedures for use of firearms. They also contain dispatch logs from the call during and after the shooting, showing deputies directing traffic and securing the scene, as well as a letter from the FBI stating that it had opened an investigation into the shooting - a routine step in a case where an officer shoots a civilian, according to the bureau.
For Santa Rosa, the disclosure marks the first of at least eight records released by the city and police department under California's new police transparency law. The city had previously withheld those documents, citing a separate, largely unrelated state Supreme Court case that is ongoing.
“This is the first time that we've ever put something out, so we thought it was appropriate and important to be clear and transparent with the public to let them know what's going on,” said Santa Rosa Police Capt. Ray Navarro.
He and Chief Hank Schreeder appear in a video accompanying the documents, all of which were posted on a public webpage, srcity.org/3093/Transparency-Information.
The records released Tuesday by the city included 200 pages of partially redacted incident reports related to an officer's shooting of a suicidal teenager at Coffey Park in 2016.
Police also provided about 370 photographs and several clips from officers' body-worn cameras related to the shooting. The images included screenshots of farewell text messages the teen sent to friends, graphic images of his wounded foot and aerial photographs police took from the sheriff's helicopter.
The records detail how the 15-year-old Maria Carrillo student snuck out of his home late May 23, 2016, and went to Coffey Park, carrying an unloaded pellet gun that resembled a real handgun and lacked an orange tip marking it as a replica. The boy called 911 to report a suspicious person near the park who was holding a gun - himself.
Santa Rosa Officer Brian Fix responded to the call. He activated his body-worn camera after spotting the boy and telling him to “come here.” Released video shows him screaming at the boy. “Get your hands up!” he yells several times. “Don't do it! Step away! Step away from the gun right now!” he continues. “Come towards me! Come towards me! I know what you're going through. Come towards me! Don't do it!”
The video continues, showing Fix firing two shots at the boy, one round hitting him in the foot. The shooting happens within 35 seconds.
In the explainer video, Navarro says Fix followed the law and acted in accordance with department policies. The officer had been on the job for just over a year at the time of the shooting. He remains on the force in Santa Rosa.
The boy's name remains undisclosed because of his age.
The records released by the Sheriff's Office also involved use-of-force cases.
One record detailed a 2018 in-custody death in which 44-year-old Roderic Bernard Cameron died in a Sonoma mobile home park after being repeatedly shocked by sheriff's deputies with Taser weapons. Cameron was smashing lights in the mobile home park and covered in blood when deputies responded to the scene, according to the records. After shocking him repeatedly, deputies handcuffed him and were preparing to place a restraint cord around his waist when they realized he was no longer responding.
Deputies tried to revive Cameron, but he was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead, according to the records. A summary of the coroner's report on Cameron's death says he died following cardiac arrest - “fatal cardiac dysrhythmia.” The coroner's description of the cause of the cardiac arrest was redacted.