Calif. sheriff: Deputies 'did nothing wrong' during disputed traffic stop

Sonoma County sheriff challenges news report and releases body camera video to dispute claims of harassment and retaliation

By Colin Atagi
The Press Democrat

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Sonoma County Sheriff Eddie Engram said Thursday that his deputies "did nothing wrong" while conducting a traffic stop last week involving a man who recently reached a $1.3 million settlement with the county after being mauled by a sheriff's dog in a 2020 arrest.

The sheriff's statement was made in a video posted on the Sheriff's Office's Facebook page Thursday afternoon, a day after The Press Democrat ran a story about the Feb. 9 traffic stop involving Jason Anglero-Wyrick.

Engram called the story "a biased article that perpetuates a narrative that deputies mistreat people of color."

"This narrative harms our community and discourages people of color to trust deputies and it tarnishes the good work the people of the Sheriff's Office do every day," he said in the video.

The Sheriff's Office had previously declined to release deputy body-camera footage of the 56-minute stop on River Road, but posted 40 minutes of the encounter on its Facebook page Thursday.

The sheriff's statement was accompanied by a short video in which Engram defended his department's response.

"To be clear, our deputies did nothing wrong on this traffic stop," Engram said.


Anglero-Wyrick, who is Black, told The Press Democrat he believed the traffic stop was retaliation for the settlement.

He filed an excessive force lawsuit in 2021 after an encounter with sheriff's deputies on April 4, 2020 outside his Graton home.

He was stunned with a Taser by a deputy and mauled by a K-9 that ignored another deputy's commands to release Anglero-Wyrick.

The 90-second attack left Anglero-Wyrick with long-term injuries that required multiple surgeries.

After initially charging him with resisting arrest, prosecutors dropped their case, citing insufficient evidence.

In the Feb. 9 traffic stop, sheriff's officials said they pulled Anglero-Wyrick over at 5:51 p.m. for an unsafe lane change, and that he and his wife became agitated and were obstructing traffic on a busy section of River Road near Fulton Road at rush hour.

Anglero-Wyrick was released at 6:47 p.m. with a citation for an unsafe lane change and driving on a suspended license.

Engram, in his introductory video, referenced an offer made by the Sheriff's Office to The Press Democrat this week to view the body-worn footage off the record, though the sheriff did not mention those ground rules in his comments Thursday.

The ground rules meant that The Press Democrat could not have referred to the video or described its contents in its reporting on the traffic stop.

The Press Democrat declined the offer and reiterated its request to the sheriff to release the full record of the stop and provide all related body-camera footage and police dispatch communication.

The Press Democrat welcomed Engram's decision to release the body-worn camera video, said Executive Editor Richard A. Green.

"We first asked his department to release it on Monday after these allegations surfaced," Green said. "The public deserved to make its own decision about what happened.

"Instead, in a 17-minute phone conversation Wednesday with two Press Democrat editors and a reporter, the department's public information officer offered to show us the video exclusively on an off-the-record basis. We were told we could not describe it, write about it or have it included in our reporting of the story. We rejected the offer. We said the video should be made available to everyone — not just to our journalists. That's exactly what happened Thursday."

Green added, "It's important to point out these facts that Sheriff Engram omitted in his video. To paint our coverage as biased and perpetuating a narrative that deputies should not be trusted by people of color is not only inaccurate, but offensive. I have tremendous respect for all public employees, including those in law enforcement. But our obligation to the community is to report all facets of how deputies and others do their job and to fairly and responsibly investigate allegations of questionable policing. We did that in this instance and will continue to do so in the future."

(c)2023 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
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