Police: More than 75 arrested during Tuesday police protests in Santa Rosa

Police arrested more than six dozen people – including a man with an unloaded shotgun – in the fourth night of demonstrations protesting police brutality Tuesday.|

Police arrested more than six dozen people – including a man with an unloaded shotgun apparently trying to prove a point – in the fourth night of demonstrations protesting police brutality Tuesday night.

Property damage appeared to be far less than previous nights, when bands of late-night protesters broke away from peaceful though vocal crowds and smashed windows and sprayed graffiti.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Jeneane Kucker said officers from Santa Rosa and other assisting agencies took more than 75 people into custody and towed more than 20 vehicles during the protests, which began around 5 p.m. and lasted until around 11 p.m.

The booking process was expected to take several hours, so police said details on those arrested would be available Wednesday afternoon. Monday night, all those arrested were from Sonoma County.

The local protests mirror those around the country and the world in releasing outrage sparked by the May 25 death George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died when a white police officer in Minneapolis held him face down on the street with a knee on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him. Derek Chauvin and three other officers have been fired; Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

In Santa Rosa, protesters marched from the Roseland area to Old Courthouse Square and up Mendocino Avenue before moving through the eastern Santa Rosa Junior College and McDonald Avenue areas.

At around 9:30 p.m., Kucker said officers saw a man holding a shotgun Mendocino and Benton Street, near the front of the march.

Officers immediately engaged the man and took him into custody without incident.

“After inspecting the gun, it was determined that the shotgun was functional, but unloaded,” Kucker said.

“The suspect’s intention was see what the police would do to a ‘white’ male holding a gun,” she said.

The suspect, Jordan Choat, 30, of Santa Rosa, was booked on a violation of the curfew and carrying a firearm in public, both misdemeanors.

He was being held at the Sonoma County Jail and was scheduled to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court Thursday morning.

In Santa Rosa, the second night of a citywide curfew that began at 8 p.m., more police and additional barricades set up by police in the downtown corridor prompted demonstrators to expand their marching to residential streets east of Santa Rosa Junior College.

Police said they received some calls of fireworks being fired off and rocks thrown at vehicles on the road and in driveways. No details were available Wednesday morning about the extent of any damage caused in residential areas.

In Sonoma County Tuesday night, the protests carried added emotion because June 2 would have been the 20 th birthday of Andy Lopez, who was 13 years old when he was shot and killed in 2013 by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who said he thought the toy gun the teen was carrying was real.

When the deputy, Erick Gelhaus, yelled at Lopez from behind, Gelhaus said the barrel of the gun – an airsoft gun made to resemble a real assault rifle – rose toward him and he shot Lopez seven times, killing the middle school student.

The Sheriff’s Office found that Gelhaus had followed department protocols governing use of deadly force. The orange tip indicating the gun was a replica had been removed.

Each year since Lopez’s death, demonstrations have occurred and have been peaceful in recent years. City officials worried the heightened emotion Tuesday might cause more mayhem than previous nights.

About 700 people who attended a vigil in Lopez’s name that began around 5 p.m. in a Sebastopol Road parking lot, but Kucker said about most of them – about 400 – left after the Roseland event concluded.

The remaining 300 people began marching west in the lanes of Sebastopol Road, taking over the intersection at Stony Point Road for about 15 minutes, and continuing to Old Courthouse Square.

After 9 p.m., police gave orders to disperse, but most demonstrators refused, police said, and continued marching, spreading out from downtown, which was blocked off with concrete K-rail traffic barriers.

A small group of people returned to downtown and broke windows and looted businesses, Kucker said. Police arrested several people downtown. The extent of damage was unclear Wednesday morning.

The larger group continued to walk through the JC neighborhood and officers gave several more dispersal orders, Kucker said.

At 10:35 p.m., the group took over the intersection of Mendocino Avenue and Pacific Avenue by stopping cars and sitting in the roadway. Officers took several people into custody there.

Officers also towed nearly two dozen vehicles.

Police did not use chemical agents or rubber bullets on the protesters.

“Almost all arrestees were compliant once officers contacted them,” Kucker said.

Several people and someone in a truck knocked over and damaged a cement barrier downtown, but the vehicle was unable to get past the barrier.

Just south of the square, Kucker said the group blocked all lanes of traffic and intentionally prevented emergency vehicles from getting through.

As darkness approached, several people threw bottles at patrol cars and those of passing private citizens.

At around 8:40 p.m., an officer began following a truck that was associated with the march, Kucker said. The driver sped out of the area into on-coming traffic, carrying two people in the truck bed. Because of the risk to public safety, police called off the pursuit.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.