Stephen Ellison

Petaluma Man Who Died in Custody Owned Reported Stolen Vehicle

A man who died in custody after a pursuit and struggle with officers and Sonoma County sheriff's deputies pursuing what they thought was a stolen vehicle last week was actually the registered owner of the car, Santa Rosa police said Monday.

David Glen Ward, 52, of Petaluma, died after a pursuit that started at 5:41 a.m. Wednesday when dispatchers received information from an off-duty Santa Rosa police detective about a 2003 Honda Civic reported stolen on Nov. 24 that was near the area of Frei Road and Guerneville Road west of Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Dan Marincik said Ward didn't say he had recovered the stolen vehicle and that there was minimal communication between Ward and the officers and deputies.

Santa Rosa police sent out a news release late Monday with more details about the pursuit and events that led to Ward's death.

According to police, sheriff's Deputy Jason Little tried to stop the vehicle in the area of Bloomfield and Murray roads and Sebastopol police officers Andrew Bauer and Ethan Stockton responded and drove behind Little's patrol car.

Little could not see inside the vehicle, and the suspect in the initial stolen vehicle report reportedly had a firearm. The vehicle did not stop but instead fled with the deputies and officers in pursuit.

Little tried a maneuver to stop the vehicle, but the driver continued fleeing after the driver stopped momentarily. The pursuit ended at 6:02 a.m. when the vehicle was boxed in by Little and the police officers at Sutton Road in the Bloomfield area. The seven-minute pursuit ended at 6:02 a.m. and reached a top speed of 70 mph, police said.

Sheriff's Deputy Charlie Blount arrived at the scene minutes later and he, Little and the Sebastopol police officers ordered Ward to open the vehicle door. Ward did not comply but put his hands up and continued to lower them before he rolled down the driver's window. The officers unsuccessfully tried to remove Ward through the driver's window and at one point Ward bit Little and Blount, police said.

The deputies and police officers struck Ward with "personal body weapons" several times, and Little shot Ward with a Taser stun gun through the open driver's window, according to police.

It had no effect, and Ward continued struggling, so Blount placed an arm around Ward's neck in an attempted carotid restraint that could make Ward lose consciousness, police said.

Stockton broke the front passenger window with his baton and opened the passenger door. Ward was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed, and four other sheriff's deputies then arrived on the scene.

At 6:21 a.m., a deputy advised the sheriff's dispatch center that Ward was not breathing and CPR was started. Medical personnel arrived and Ward was taken by ambulance to Petaluma Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:17 a.m.

Police said the investigation by Santa Rosa police is ongoing, and the sheriff's office is conducting an administrative review to determine if the deputies followed policies during the incident. The Marin County coroner's office will determine the cause and manner of Ward's death.

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