- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—A Forestville man who claims Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies shocked him 23 times with Tasers and beat him when he was booked on drunken-driving charges is asking for $3 million to settle his excessive force lawsuit.

Esa Wroth, 28, made the demand Friday in a letter to the county’s lawyers, said his attorney, Isaak Schwaiger.

Schwaiger said the amount reflects the strength of a case that will include sworn statements from correctional deputies and a 29-minute video he claims shows an alarming example of police brutality.

“He’s lucky to be alive,” Schwaiger said Monday.

County Counsel Bruce Goldstein said his office has not received the settlement letter. Both sides are expected to attend a settlement conference in about two weeks in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, he said.

Wroth’s lawsuit is one of at least three separate legal actions pending against the county that contain allegations of excessive force. The parents of 13-year-old Andy Lopez filed a wrongful death claim after the Santa Rosa youth was shot and killed in 2013 by a deputy who mistook the airsoft rifle he was carrying for an assault weapon. And the family of Glenn Swindell, 39, of Larkfield is suing the sheriff’s office after Swindell committed suicide during a 12-hour standoff at his home. Swindell’s family claims a siege by the SWAT team prompted him to take his life.

All are in federal court and all allege civil rights violations by deputies.

Wroth’s case began when he was arrested Jan. 2, 2013, on drunken-driving charges. Toxicology testing showed he had a 0.21 percent blood-alcohol level, more than two times the legal limit, when he was pulled over on River Road after leaving the Forestville Club.

While being booked into the jail, he became uncooperative and resisted efforts to subdue him, jail officials said.

Correctional deputies hit him to gain compliance and shocked him with Tasers during a struggle, they said.

An internal investigation concluded the actions were appropriate.

A portion of the confrontation was captured on a video recording by jail officials, which Wroth’s lawyer posted on YouTube. Altercations between suspects and jail officials are routinely recorded for evidence purposes, jail officials said.

On the eve of trial, prosecutors dismissed resisting and assault charges against Wroth in exchange for his plea to an alcohol-related reckless driving offense.

The federal lawsuit seeks damages for ongoing medical bills. Wroth had two dislocated shoulders and had Taser barbs surgically removed from his body, Schwaiger said.

Among the allegations are that deputies exceeded federal Department of Justice guidelines for using Tasers. The agency recommends police fire no more than three times and allow the shock to last a maximum of five seconds each. In Wroth’s case, deputies fired 23 times, in one case allowing the shock to last more than three times the federal recommendation, Schwaiger said.

“It was torture,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or [email protected] pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.


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