Sonoma County Sued for Police Misconduct and Brutality, Federal Civil Rights Suit Demands Immediate Reforms to County’s Police Cam Video Release Policies
SONOMA, Calif. – A recent victim of police violence filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County of Sonoma, Town of Windsor, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essex, and individual officers, demanding monetary damages, as well as injunctive relief to alter Sonoma County’s illegal policies with respect to the release of police body camera video footage, according to Hagens Berman.
The suit, filed on June 25, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses defendants of violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as California’s Constitution and common law.
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.
The lawsuit states that officers then unlawfully arrested Mr. McDonald, filed a false police report and falsely imprisoned him, with the cooperation of supervisors.
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 demands justice for all citizens unlawfully targeted and attacked by the police, like Mr. McDonald,” said Steve Berman, co-founder and managing partner of Hagens Berman. “For far too long, members of our society have been victimized by the authorities and denied their civil liberties. Public transparency, including the prompt release of body cam video footage, is absolutely necessary for police accountability.” Berman added.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a national class-action and complex litigation law firm with nine offices across the country, fighting for the rights of consumers, whistleblowers, employees, investors and others. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.