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Stick-wielding assailant

Photo by M Chenoweth Wright The cellphone camera photo was taken moments before the assault. The unnamed victim can be seen seated on the ground while Sheldon Leon Thomas Berkey stands over him holding the stick used in the attack.

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A Petaluma man is in jail after allegedly beating another man with a wooden stick during a brazen midday attack in Putnam Plaza on Monday.

Witnesses said the attacker, Sheldon Leon Thomas Berkey, 27, of Petaluma, walked up to the victim, a 42-year-old Petaluma resident, and began beating him with a large wooden walking stick around 12:30 p.m.

“The (victim) was begging to be left alone, but the guy with the stick began whacking him,” said Bradley Gray, who witnessed the attack and posted about it on his Facebook page. “The guy tried to get away, and the guy with the stick hit him really hard. The cornered guy hit his head against the base of a cement statue, and went down. The sound of the guy’s head hitting the cement was awful.”

The victim was knocked unconscious when he fell and hit his head against the pavement trying to fend off the attack. The incident was witnessed by a handful of people, who quickly called 911 to report the violence. Police swarmed the area and quickly set up a search perimeter. They found Berkey hiding in some bushes a few blocks from the crime scene, and he was arrested without incident. Some witnesses also shot videos and photographs of the beating, which helped police confirm the identity of the attacker.

Berkey was already on probation for another assault. He is being held in the Sonoma County Jail for assault with a deadly weapon and a probation violation on $30,000 bail.

The victim, who police are not identifying, was taken to the hospital with injuries that are not considered life threatening.