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Case Status
Motion to Dismiss Denied (In Full or in Part)
Practice Areas
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
Case Number
County of Sonoma, Town of Windsor, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essex and individual officers
File Date


Hagens Berman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County of Sonoma, Town of Windsor, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essex and individual police officers. The action comes after the excessive use of deadly force during a welfare check, false arrest and imprisonment of La’Marcus McDonald, a 34 year-old African American male

According to the complaint, on July 9, 2019, the Windsor Police Department responded to a welfare check of Mr. McDonald, who was sleeping in a legally parked vehicle. Police officers detained Mr. McDonald and used “excessive and deadly force by slamming Plaintiff head first into the ground while holding his right arm, breaking off Plaintiff’s two front teeth, knocking out a third, causing bleeding from the mouth, facial and arm lacerations, and rendering him unconscious,” the complaint reads.


After reviewing the body camera footage, the Sonoma County District Attorney refused to prosecute Mr. McDonald. Sonoma County and the Sheriff’s office nevertheless refuse to release the body camera footage to Mr. McDonald, despite a new California statute (Cal. Gov. Code § 6254(f)(4)), requiring the release of such video within 45 days where use of force causes death or great bodily harm.

The Sonoma Sheriff takes the position that a concussion and the loss of three front teeth does not constitute great bodily harm, which in turn allows them to not report the incident to the California Department of Justice, as required by California law (Cal. Gov. Code §  12525.2(d)) and conceal the Sheriff’s Office wrongdoing.


Hagens Berman has challenged defendants' actions under Federal Statute 42 U.S.C. 1983 the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as California’s Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, California’s Ralph Act Cal. Civ. Code § 51.7, California's Constitution and common law. The lawsuit states that officers then unlawfully arrested Mr. McDonald, filed a false police report and falsely imprisoned him, with the cooperation of supervisors. The attorneys at Hagens Berman are continuing to investigate various police departments and officers under these laws.


Hagens Berman believes that those most vulnerable to harm, neglect and systemic abuse are those whose voice should be amplified the most. Our firm has built its reputation on a willingness and ability to take on extraordinarily challenging cases, setting us apart from other firms, and we have taken down some of the world's most well-financed and aggressive legal adversaries that seek to carry out organized fraud and wrong doing.


Hagens Berman is one of the most successful plaintiff litigation law firms in the U.S. and has achieved more than $320 billion in settlements for clients in lawsuits against some of the world's largest entities for wrongdoing and negligence. Your claim will be handled by experts in plaintiffs law.

Hagens Berman has the legal savvy and resources to delivery top-notch results for our clients, and our firm has represented individuals and organizations in some of the more difficult civil rights challenges that have arisen in the past two decades. In doing so, we’ve managed cases that have presented very complex legal and factual issues, which were often related to highly charged political and historical events. Our clients have included such diverse communities as World War II prisoners of war, conscripted civilians and entire villages.


There is no cost or fee whatsoever involved in joining this action. In the event Hagens Berman or any other firm obtains a settlement that provides benefits to class members, the court will decide a reasonable fee to be awarded to the legal team for the class. In no case will any class member ever be asked to pay any out-of-pocket sum.


Judge Denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Case

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer declined to dismiss all but one count against the defendants, stating that the arresting officer's "alleged conduct constituted excessive force in violation of McDonald's Fourth Amendment rights" and that police "lacked probable cause to arrest McDonald for resisting arrest."

Complaint filed

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