California sheriff fires deputy who choked suspect that died

David Glen Ward in Graton, Calif. Ward died last week after being restrained by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who suspected him of carjacking. Catherine Aguilera via AP)

“If you watched the body-worn camera video closely, you may be concerned about what you saw. So was I,” Essick said. “The way Deputy Blount handles the entire situation is extremely troubling. As a result, I’ve served Deputy Blount a notice of termination.”

Ward died the morning of Nov. 27 after two sheriff’s deputies and two Sebastopol police officers mistook him for a stolen car suspect. Ward had reported his green Honda Civic stolen three days earlier by a man who he said pistol-whipped him. He was driving the car when officers tried to pull him over and he refused to stop. When they did eventually pull him over, he did not tell officers he was the vehicle’s owner and Essick said it remains a mystery why he fled from officers.

Blount then tells fellow officers Ward bit him and he can be seen pulling Ward by his hair, then slamming his head repeatedly against the side of the car while another officer deploys a stun gun on him.

Blount then puts Ward in a choke hold inside the vehicle for several seconds while other officers break the passenger-side window. When they drag Ward out of the car through, he lies listless on the ground as several officers say he is unconscious.

Essick said in an interview Friday that Blount violated several department policies, including use of force, stopping high-risk vehicles, the hostage and barricade procedure and firearms policy. He said Blount also violated safety rules.

“When I watched that video, it was an aberration. It did not meet the expectations of our sheriff’s department or my expectations,” he said.

Essick said the department will review the conduct of each deputy involved, but its investigation began with Blount because “his actions were the most egregious.”

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