Sonoma County Sheriff releases video in shooting of mall theft suspect
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy who shot a man suspected of trying to stab a Santa Rosa Plaza security guard earlier this month told responding officers he fired his gun after the man jumped into his unlocked patrol car, tried to put it in drive and reached for a knife during a struggle, a video made public Wednesday shows.
The video is the second of its kind released by the Sheriff’s Office since July, when a new law went into effect requiring law enforcement agencies to release body-worn camera footage in officer-involved shootings and in cases when someone dies or is injured as a result of force.
The body-worn camera footage released Wednesday was paired with supplemental information about the shooting, including maps of relevant locations, dispatch audio from mall staff and narration from Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick - all elements not required by the new law. The video release mirrored one made by the agency late last month in response to a deputy-involved shooting in Bodega Bay.
Essick said the added information is intended to inform viewers about the circumstances leading up to the shooting, something the Sheriff’s Office will continue to do in future video releases under the new law, AB 748.
“I think this is what people in Sonoma County should expect from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in the future,” he said. “It’s important to set context so people can understand what they’re seeing. Sometimes the video by itself, it only tells a few seconds of what’s happening.”
The video came almost two weeks after Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy David Edney fired six shots at the man, later identified as Brad Baymon, 42, of Minnesota.
The Aug. 1 shooting happened just before 6 p.m., after a mall security guard called 911 and reported a man tried to stab his boss when they stopped him over a pair of shoes and then fled through a parking garage, according to dispatch audio included in the video.
The mall’s asset protection manager also dialed 911, saying he and other staff were attacked by a man with a knife, according to a second audio clip.
“He literally tried to kill us, ma’am,” the manager said. “It was like he tried to stab us in the neck.”
The video shows Edney responding to an alert to local law enforcement about the attempted stabbing and spotting Baymon, who is wearing a jacket and carrying a red bag, on Morgan Street near the mall. The body-worn camera footage also captures Edney jumping out of his patrol car and drawing his firearm before firing a Taser at Baymon as he walks past him.
“Get on the ground right now, I will tase you,” Edney says in the video.
Edney runs ahead of Baymon, who doubles back toward the patrol car as he removes from his clothing the Taser’s barbed darts, which appear to have little to no effect, the footage shows. Baymon ignores the deputy’s commands and runs into the patrol car and closes the door - all within 20 seconds of Edney initially stepping out of his car.
Edney opens the door, but Baymon tells him “get out of here” and shuts the door. A frame pulled from the body-worn camera at that moment shows an object in Baymon’s left hand, which the Sheriff’s Office identified as a knife. The deputy then fires several rounds in quick succession as Santa Rosa officers arrive.
“As soon as I tried to open the door on him … It looked like he was trying to go for the knife again,” Edney tells one officer, the video shows. “So I backed up, closed it and he was trying to put it in drive and I just shot him.”
Ed Obayashi, a Plumas County Sheriff’s deputy, legal adviser and use-of-force expert, said he found the officer’s actions reasonable given the circumstances. He said officers are trained to secure their cars whenever possible, though it’s possible the deputy forgot to do so in light of his contact with Baymon, who was reported as being armed and violent. Obayashi said it likely could have posed a serious public safety threat if Baymon made off with the patrol car, which Edney in the video says had a rifle and another gun inside.
“He’s shown he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get away,” Obayashi said. “To me this is as justifiable of a shooting, legally, as there is.”
He said it was unusual to see body-camera footage that was edited in the manner the Sheriff’s Office released it, as the work is costly to do. The payoff is that agencies can explain the shooting in their own words, something that can help shape public opinion.
Essick said his office is balancing sharing information in an unbiased manner while providing useful context for the public.
Baymon was taken from the hospital to Sonoma County Jail on Aug. 8, three days after he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and other felony crimes. His bail was set at $200,000.
Edney remains on administrative leave, a routine procedure after a shooting, Essick said.
The Santa Rosa Police Department is conducting the investigation and will forward its finding to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, which will determine if the shooting was lawful.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office also will conduct its own administrative review on whether Edney’s actions followed procedures.