A former deputy sheriff of Sonoma County, California, was arrested for the death of a car thief after police footage showed a violent scuffle when officers tried to arrest him.
Charles Blount was arrested this week on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and assault by an officer on David Ward’s death in 2019, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in Washington told Newsday.
Ward died after a physical confrontation with officers following a high-speed police chase. Blount, 61, turned himself in Monday after a Sonoma County Supreme Court warrant was issued against him, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Misti Wood said. He was incarcerated in the county jail and released shortly after posting $50,000 bail.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office released a video from one of the body-worn cameras of the deputies who recorded the incident.
The officers can be seen pointing guns at Ward and shouting at him before trying to physically restrain him while he is sitting in the front seat of his car. Finally, a congressman can be seen shooting at him with an electric shock device.
Earlier this year, the victim’s family filed a lawsuit against the former congressman, alleging that he had had violent encounters with the public in the past and was not properly trained to use a neck grip, which apparently led to Ward’s death, The Press Democrat reported.
Santa Rosa police conducted the criminal investigation of Blount’s actions, the publication said.
The department’s spokesman, Sergeant Chris Mahurin, told the outlet that it completed the investigation in late May and handed over its report to the prosecutor’s office. The arrest warrant against Blount was then issued on Monday.
After turning himself in, he became the first law enforcement officer in Sonoma County known to have been arrested on suspicion of killing a person while trying to arrest him.
Washington Newsday has asked the Santa Rosa Police Department and Harry Stern, Blount’s attorney in the civil case, for comments.
What we know about Ward’s death
In November last year, Ward, who had significant health and physical problems, drove a car that was reported stolen earlier this week, according to The Press Democrat.
A deputy sheriff had tried to stop him, but when he refused to stop the car, a high-speed chase ensued.
The chase, which lasted about seven minutes and in which the vehicles reached a speed of at least 70 miles per hour, was recorded on the body-worn footage.
You can see Ward stopping when he hit a dead end, but he did not stop when the MPs ordered him to open his car door.
A congressman then reaches through the open car window and puts his arm around the driver’s neck before banging his head against the side of the car to free him from the vehicle.
Later, another Congressman is seen shooting Ward with an electric shock device while the officers continue to try to get him to get out of the car.
A Marin County medical examiner seen by The Press Democrat declared the death a murder. In it, Ward was said to have died of cardiorespiratory collapse, blunt impact injuries, neck cuffing and the use of a stun gun caused by a “physical confrontation with law enforcement authorities.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick later said in a video statement that he found footage of the deputy’s actions “extremely disturbing” and announced that Blount would be fired.