The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has released the body cam video of the incident that led to the death of David Glen Ward, 52, who died on Nov. 27 after a violent interaction with local Sheriff’s Office deputies.
It all began on Nov. 23, when Ward reported to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office that his Honda had been stolen at gunpoint and that he had been pistol-whipped.
On Nov. 27, between 5:30 and 6 a.m., the car was spotted and Sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop it, thinking it was being driven by the car thief. In fact, Ward had apparently, within the last two hours, retrieved the car. But the officers didn’t know this.
For unknown reasons, Ward decided not to stop but instead led Deputy Jason Little and two Sebastopol police officers, Andrew Bauer and Ethan Stockton, on a seven-minute chase, ending up in the Bloomfield region of west county. The officers eventually stopped the car on Sutton Road. When Deputy Charlie Blount arrived, Ward was still in the car with the window rolled up.
The body-cam footage
The body-cam footage, which was released by the Sheriff’s Office on Friday, Dec. 20, shows an officer with a gun drawn, shouting at Ward to keep his hands up.
“Show me your f— hands! Show me your hands!” Deputy Jason Little shouts, pointing a gun at Ward. “Turn off the f— car!”
Deputies continue yelling repeated commands at Ward: “Don’t move,” “Put your hands up,” “Hands up,” “Keep your hands up” for almost a full minute.
Ward keeps putting his hands up, but then drops them back in his lap over and over.
“Put your hands on the steering wheel,” one officer yells, perhaps seeing that Ward is having difficulty keeping them up. Ward does, at which point Little yells, “Don’t move your hands.”
Ward appears to drop both his hands into his lap and just sits there. There was more yelling to keep his hands up. He does not respond.
Deputy Blount moves toward the door, despite Little’s pleas to wait.
They try to open the door. It was locked, so they instruct Ward to open the door with one hand. Ward tries but appears unable to do this, so he rolls down his window.
“I can’t believe this. I’m the injured party in this,” Ward said.
“Don’t move your f— hand,” an officer yells at him.
“Why you f— harassing me all the time?” Ward said.
At this point, Blount tells Ward, “Give me your hands,” which he does, and a second later Blount begins tugging at him, apparently trying to pull him out through the driver’s side window, saying “Get the f— out of the car."
Ward begins yelling in distress as the deputy attempts to pull him out of the car window.
“All right, I’m getting out, I’m getting out,” Ward says, but the deputy continues to try to pull him out through the window.
Ward yells, “My legs, my legs,” and then groans, “My leg is stuck.”
“Ow, ow…” he yells, as the officer continues yanking him.
The body-cam shows further tussling as Deputy Blount attempts to drag Ward out of the window.
“He’s stuck, Charlie," Little says.
Ward yells, "Help me!”
Blount shouts that Ward bit him, and punches the back of Ward’s head. Blount pulls Ward’s head out of the window by his hair and slams his head forcefully against the side of the car, where the door meets the roof. Ward yells in pain. He is tasered twice. Then Blount reaches in to apply the “carotid restraint,” which lasts for a little more than 30 seconds
At that point, the other officers open the passenger door and drag Ward out, putting him on the ground face down. A Sebastopol officer handcuffs him.
Little tells Blount Ward had bitten him also and broken the skin.
Suddenly one of the officers realizes that Ward is unconscious and asks for medical help. At first the officers reports that Ward is not breathing and has no pulse, then one says he is breathing. Reporting to dispatch, an officer says that “He is unconscious but breathing.”
As Ward lays unresponsive on the ground, another deputy, Deputy Jax, realizes he is the vehicle’s owner.
“This is, this is the owner of the car,” Jax says. “This is David Ward. He’s the, he’s the victim.”
Deputy Little asks, “Then why did he run?”
Jax, after saying “All this is legit,” (apparently meaning the law enforcement action that had just occurred), says, “He had no reason to run. But I was out with him earlier like two hours ago at his house … No, the car wasn’t there at the time … obviously, he somehow, he made contact with the guy and got it.”
“Oh well,” Blount says.
At this point, an unidentified officer says, “He’s not breathing anymore.”
Deputies gather round and, at Blount’s urging, one starts CPR. The video ends at this point.
A black screen comes up, noting that an ambulance transported Ward to the a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The cause of death is still under investigation by the Marin County Coroner’s Office.
Under a protocol that forbids a law enforcement agency involved in a death from doing the investigation, the Santa Rosa Police Department is investigating Ward’s death. County prosecutors will ultimately decide whether to file any criminal charges.
In the aftermath
At the end of the video released by the Sheriff’s Office, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said, “If you watched the body-worn video closely, you may be concerned by what you saw. So was I. The way Deputy Blount handles the entire situation is extremely troubling. As a result I have served Deputy Blount a notice of termination. He has been on administrative leave since this incident occurred, and he will remain on leave until the conclusion of this investigation.”
“Please know that this one person does not reflect the culture of the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office,” Essick said, “and does not represent the hardworking men and women who work here.”
In the meantime, on Saturday, Dec. 7, Sonoma County Sheriff’s arrested Driden Estrada, Ward’s former caretaker, in connection with the initial carjacking and beating.