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Man who filmed police confrontation to file civil rights complaint

The man who videotaped a Rohnert Park police officer taking out his gun during a verbal encounter on a street last month intends to file a civil rights violation claim against the city and the Police Department.

Jarin Beck, the Santa Rosa attorney for Don McComas, said the claim will allege Officer David Rodriguez abused his police power during the July 29 incident.

Beck said McComas is under medical care for emotional stress, and the civil rights claim, typically made before a lawsuit, would be filed within two weeks.

The 5-minute video shows Rodriguez arriving in a patrol car at a residence on a cul-de-sac. Rodriguez remains in his car and at one point also takes a photo or video of McComas.

Rodriguez gets out of the car after about 90 seconds, approaches McComas and tells him to take his hand out of his pocket. He draws his gun about 10 seconds after he gets out of the patrol car.

McComas objects and tells the officer he has done nothing wrong and tells the officer to go away.

“You guys have done enough to my family,” McComas says, and accuses the police of being corrupt.

When Rodriguez asks why McComas is recording the incident McComas replies “to protect myself from you.” “Are you some kind of constitutionalist crazy guy,” Rodriguez asks at one point before leaving.

Beck said McComas was hitching a boat to his vehicle when the incident occurred, and that Rodriguez drove down the street then turned around and drove to where McComas was. Rodriguez can be heard on the video saying he has “arrived at the location.” “Without the video there could have been different circumstances,” Beck said. Rodriguez might not have shot McComas but he could have claimed he was fearful and arrested McComas, Beck said.

“It’s ‘he said, she said’ and the culture is to believe the police,” Beck said:

“It was not a situation where Don was doing anything illegal or was a threat. It was an officer who decided to threaten and intimidate him for no reason.”

There has been no previous encounter between McComas and police, but McComas’ son had “an issue” with Rohnert Park police, Beck said.

Beck said the civil rights violation claim is more about bringing awareness about police conduct:

“There are excellent police officers who don’t undertake this conduct, and there are rogues like this officer who ruin it for everyone else.”

Rodriguez has been placed on placed on temporary paid administrative leave, and the city will hire an independent outside investigator to investigate the incident, Rohnert Park Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz said:

“The City truly believes in community-oriented policing and deeply values the relationship between law enforcement and our community. The incident portrayed on the video is not a typical interaction between our Public Safety Officers and the public.”

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