Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, retired deputy sued over death of Bloomfield man
A former Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy had a history of violent encounters with the public and was not properly trained in the use of a neck hold that led to the death of a Bloomfield man last November, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the man’s family.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office knew about a string of excessive force allegations against the retired deputy, Charles Blount, but failed to address them, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the mother of David Glen Ward, 52, the man who died in the Nov. 27 incident.
The lawsuit accuses Blount, 60, and Deputy Jason Little of using excessive force during the arrest, which took place on a dead-end street in Bloomfield at the conclusion of a high-speed chase.
Video cameras worn by the deputies captured the final moments of Ward’s life. They show Blount, a 19-year veteran with the Sheriff’s Office, wrapped his arm around Ward’s neck and bashed his head into the side of the car as he tried to pull him out through an open window.
Little fired his Taser twice at Ward through an open window of the Honda Civic, which Ward had reported stolen by an armed man several days prior. Unbeknownst to the deputies and two Sebastopol police officers at the scene, Ward had recovered the car earlier that day.
The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, additionally names the county of Sonoma and Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick as defendants. It alleges Essick knew Blount had a “propensity for violence” and had a demonstrated track record of using excessive force in the past but failed to take remedial steps to prevent future violations by his employee.
In early 2019, Blount’s supervisor recommended the deputy undergo additional training in the use of the carotid hold after reviewing an incident in which Blount improperly used the tactic on a person, the lawsuit said. Blount responded by filing a formal complaint that he was being treated unfairly, according to the suit. Instead of retraining Blount, Essick began disciplinary proceedings against the supervisor, the suit alleged. Ward died a few months later.
“This approval of Blount’s violence from the highest level of the Sheriff’s Office caused the public to remain exposed to a man who sooner or later was going to kill someone, and who ultimately did,” the lawsuit said.
Essick did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Tuesday. Sonoma County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Juan Valencia said it was against county and Sheriff’s Office policy to speak about ongoing lawsuits.
“We have not been served with the lawsuit, we haven’t read it, so at this time, per policy, we’re not going to comment,” Valencia said.
Harry Stern, Blount’s attorney, said in an email statement that he had not yet examined the lawsuit. He did not answer specific questions about the allegations against his client.
Little and Sebastopol police Officer Andrew Bauer, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, were accused of witnessing the use of excessive force by Blount and failing to protect Ward, despite a duty to do so.
Bauer, who was hired by Sebastopol Police six years ago but had worked for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office three years prior, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.