A Rohnert Park investigation into a police officer who was caught on video drawing his gun on a man hitching his boat up in his driveway has found the officer's actions were reasonable and did not violate city policy, citing the man's "agitated behavior" and a "bulge" in his pocket.
In response, the man filed a civil rights claim against the city on Thursday disputing the officer’s version of events. Auto mechanic Don McComas, 38, alleged in claim that he was “mocked,” “harassed” and “threatened” by Officer David Rodriguez. The claim also alleges that the officer falsified his report to the city. A representative from Rohnert Park was not immediately available Thursday to respond to the claim or allegations. But in a letter sent to Beck's office on Thursday, city attorney Michelle Marchetta Kenyon said the city stands by the investigator's findings.
McComas and the city are at odds with what occurred on July 29, part of which, was captured on McComas’ cell phone, which he later posted on a now-viral Facebook post, which was up, but then taken down at some point on Thursday. In the video, the officer is seen getting out of his cruiser, drawing his gun in a residential neighborhood and telling him to take his hand from his pocket. McComas told the officer to put down the gun and complied. McComas was never arrested. His attorney, Daniel Beck, told NBC Bay Area on Thursday that as far as he knows, McComas had one criminal brush with the law in his life: speeding in a hot rod and evading the police when he was 19. He described McComas, a husband and father, as a “regular guy.”
On Wednesday, the city released a summary of its investigation's findings into why the officer pulled a gun McComas and posted them online. In essence, the city found:
"The officer reasonably exercised his right to stop and have contact with the resident, and did so for legitimate reasons and not for the purpose of harassing or mistreating the resident. It was reasonable for the officer to un-holster his duty weapon at the point he did during the encounter with the resident."
In the brief report, the city described the "factors contributing to the incident."
The officer was in the neighborhood after some complaints that someone in the neighborhood was violating city parking codes. While checking registration on cars, the officer noticed a man standing on the sidewalk by a truck. The officer saw the man "quickly duck behind the truck after his patrol car came into view." The officer considered this "suspicious behavior," the city found, and decided to investigate further. After the officer got out of his patrol car, he also noticed other "unusual behavior," including the man's "agitated demeanor" and his "initial refusal to comply with the officer’s instruction to remove his hand from his pocket, which had a bulge in it."
But Beck told NBC Bay Area on Thursday that his office checked into it, and there was no police log that day of any parking complaints. He also noted that the officer said his client “became very angry.” But the video never shows McComas getting angry, Beck said. Also, the officer wrote in his report that he “called for backup.” But the video “clearly” shows, Beck wrote in his claim, that call did not occur.
The investigation was conducted by Sue Ann Van Dermyden of the Van Dermyden Law Corporation, an attorney and licensed private investigator.
McComas declined to be interviewed by her and canceled a scheduled interview, the city noted. So inspectors "closely examined all aspects of the video" and looked at McComas' "social media postings" to try to understand the events.
Beck said his client submitted a short statement to investigators instead of meeting with them because “we felt the city was already bent on their decision and would whitewash this.”
The officer in question, the city noted in its report, is now working in the fire division, “per the city’s normal rotation process and at his own request, made in early July...prior to the incident.”