The Coastal Post - April, 1999

Sheriff's Deputies Fail The Peace Test In West Marin

By Don Deane

How can an argument between two women outside a saloon at 12:30 a.m. escalate into two arrests, a deputy's gun being drawn and waved at people standing on the sidewalk and street, a bystander being pepper sprayed, and officers hightailing it out of town with onlookers stunned and disbelieving?

This writer, the publisher of the Coastal Post, is not an altogether disinterested party. He owns the saloon. He was also there to see the beginning-an argument between two women, and the end-a bartender and woman being whisked away by Marin County Sheriff's Deputies.

Eye witnesses who gave statements immediately after the arrests were stunned. The women were approached by deputies from behind. One woman was seized by a deputy, her arm twisted and pushed behind her. She pulled away and crawled under a car. She says she didn't know the person manhandling her was a deputy. He didn't identify himself from behind. The other woman was handcuffed and pushed up against a car where she remained.

The woman under the car was hysterical. The bartender, who knew both women, was called out of the saloon. The deputies didn't tell him to back off as he tried to calm the woman under the car down by speaking with her. She answered him, she started to crawl out from under the car and one of the deputies attempted to shoot pepper spray into her face. The bartender blocked the spay with his hand. The bartender knew the woman had asthma.

The bartender was thrown to the street and pepper sprayed. He was handcuffed and arrested. A person standing by was pepper sprayed. The gathering group of people became angry. A deputy pulled a gun, waving it at people in the street and on the sidewalk.

When this writer was called from the bar because the bartender was being arrested it was all over. Two or three minutes had passed. The bartender was in the back of the cruiser. The handcuffed woman pleaded to not be taken away. She got into the cruiser. The deputies had made their arrests. They had kept the peace.

According to a statement by a sheriff's captain the following week in the Point Reyes Light, the bartender tackled one of the deputies and struck the other. The deputies had kept the peace. Not so according to witnesses. The deputies had not kept the peace according to witnesses. People were hurt. An incident was exacerbated in its handling and distorted in official reports. Something is rotten with the Sheriff's Department.

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