Santa Rosa: Tasers used 6 times in fatal arrest
Friday, Jul. 29, 2005 at 5:36 PM
By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A 31-year-old man who died after a lengthy struggle with police was
zapped six times with Taser stun guns and briefly knocked unconscious
with a neck restraint, Santa Rosa police said Monday.
Police say Carlos Casillas Fernandez was probably under the influence of drugs and that it took five officers to restrain him.
One of those officers, Matt Sanchez, is named in a lawsuit alleging
excessive use of force on a retired Santa Rosa Junior College employee
in a case that also involved Tasers.
On Monday, police released more details about the events prior to Fernandez's death.
Officers responded to a 911 call placed from Fernandez's home on Blue
Sky Lane at about 1 a.m. Saturday. Police said they believe Fernandez
made the call but he wouldn't talk to the dispatcher.
wife, Karla Fernandez, ultimately spoke to dispatchers and "reported
that she believed her husband was under the influence of drugs and that
he had been acting paranoid and delusional during the past several
days," according to a statement released by police.
members say Fernandez called police because he heard noises and
believed a thief was trying to enter the house. Police said they would
release the 911 transcript in the coming days.
When the first officer arrived, the police statement said, Fernandez refused to speak to him and entered his house.
The officer, Brian Sinigiani, spoke to Karla Fernandez outside while
Sanchez, the second officer to arrive, went inside to check on her
Inside the house, police said Sanchez saw "obvious
signs" that Fernandez was under the influence of drugs, including
profuse sweating, tight clenching of fists and jaw.
was able to take Fernandez's pulse before the drywall worker became
agitated and uncooperative and resisted being cuffed, police said.
"They were having a very difficult time trying to control him," Lt. Ernest Olivares said Monday.
While trying to subdue Fernandez, Olivares said one of the two officers
initially at the scene applied a direct Taser jolt to Fernandez's
shoulder. Also, one of the officers used a carotid restraint on
Fernandez, a maneuver that causes unconsciousness by blocking the flow
of blood to the brain through the carotid arteries.
didn't reveal who used the carotid restraint. He said investigators are
still trying to determine which officers used their Tasers.
Police said Fernandez briefly lost consciousness but soon continued to
resist. After more police arrived, one of them used his Taser on
Fernandez, with both probes shooting out and striking him on his left
side. Olivares said Fernandez was shocked about four times by the
Pepper spray also was used on Fernandez, who was finally restrained and handcuffed with the help of five officers.
Olivares said Fernandez was probably lying face down with his hands
cuffed behind his back when he started having difficulty breathing.
Police removed the handcuffs and began CPR. Fernandez was taken to
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
On Monday, family members said Karla Fernandez was too distraught to
answer questions. They blamed excessive force for Fernandez's death.
One relative said she was aware that Officer Sanchez had recently been sued over the use of excessive force.
In the lawsuit, which was filed April 27 in Superior Court, William
Lambert, a media lab specialist for Santa Rosa Junior College, says
Sanchez broke his right leg and applied a Taser jolt to the same leg
during a domestic dispute at Lambert's home on March 22, 2004.
"We had warned the city last year that they had a problem officer," said Lambert's attorney, Sam Libicki.
City Attorney Brien Farrell rejected the claim against Sanchez.
"Mr. Lambert was properly arrested for striking his wife," Farrell
said. "We will be making a motion to dismiss and should the case
ultimately go to trial we look forward to the community hearing all of
the evidence regarding the incident itself and the officers' training,
and we are confident the officer will be vindicated."
Sanchez, Sinigiani and four other officers have been placed on paid
administrative leave pending the investigation, which is being
conducted by the Sheriff's Department.
An autopsy on
Fernandez identified underlying heart disease, according to the
Sheriff's Department. The cause of death has not been determined,
pending toxicology analysis, which will not be available for about two