On Tuesday, May 19, an attorney for the mother of David Glen Ward, the 52-year-old man who died in a bizarre interaction with sheriff’s deputies at the end of December, has filed suit against the two sheriff’s deputies involved, a Sebastopol police officer who was on the scene, the county of Sonoma and Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick.
Ward died after a Sonoma County sheriff violently attempted to remove the unresisting Wade from his vehicle after an extended car chase through west county.
The complaint for damages includes claims of excessive force (against sheriff’s deputies Charles Blount and Jason Little), failure to intervene (against Sebastopol Police Officer Andy Bauer and Little), supervisory liability (against Mark Essick), municipal liability (against the county of Sonoma), wrongful death (against Blount and the county of Sonoma) and negligent training, supervision, and retention (against the county of Sonoma).
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a May 14 report from the Marin County Coroner that declared Ward’s death a homicide.
In the coroner’s report, the immediate causes of death were listed as the following:
- Cardiorespiratory collapse
- Blunt impact injuries, neck restraint and application of conducted energy device
- Physical confrontation with law enforcement
Other significant conditions that contributed to his death (but did not cause it) were listed as “acute methamphetamine intoxication, chronic substance abuse, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale, clinical; remote head trauma (status post craniotomy); bipolar disorder/schizophrenia, by history.”
The incident began when local law enforcement recognized a car on the road as one that had been reported as stolen a few days before. The vehicle belonged to the driver, Ward, who had reported it stolen three days prior but had somehow retrieved the vehicle. Unfortunately, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office, he hadn’t notified them of that.
Ward led a collection of law enforcement on a long chase through the backroads of the Bloomfield area, coming to a stop on Sutton Road.
In attempting to remove Ward from his car, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Blount reached into the car, attempted to pull Ward out of the car through the driver’s side window, during which he violently slammed Ward’s head several times against the side of the car.
After watching Blount struggling to remove Ward from the vehicle, another deputy fired his Taser at Ward through the open driver’s window. Almost immediately after Ward was tasered, Blount, who was standing by the driver’s side door, reached in and placed one of his arms around Ward’s neck to administer a carotid restraint, which places pressure on the carotid artery, causing the person to lose consciousness.
Ward never regained consciousness. Deputies removed Ward from the car and laid him on the ground. After a few moments, they noticed that he wasn’t breathing and called for an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at Petaluma Valley Hospital an hour later.
Blount retired from the sheriff’s office after the Sheriff’s Department released the body cam video of the incident.
Ward’s family engaged attorney Isaac Schwaiger, who filed the suit for damages.