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Man dies after California police officer slams his head into car he was mistakenly believed to have stolen

David Glen Ward, 52, was in his own car that he had reported stolen a few days ago; but since he had not reported getting back his vehicle to the police they suspected him to be the thief
UPDATED DEC 23, 2019
Bodycam footage of David Ward's head slamming incident (Sonoma Sheriff's Office)
Bodycam footage of David Ward's head slamming incident (Sonoma Sheriff's Office)

CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES: The Sonoma County Sheriff's office has released bodycam footage of the November 27 incident wherein a man who was mistaken to have stolen a car led the police on a high-speed chase before he was apprehended and his head was slammed against the vehicle's frame by a deputy. Soon after, the man stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

It all started on November 24, when David Glen Ward, 52, reported that he had become a victim of a carjacking. Despite having recovered his vehicle, he failed to update the authorities, who kept on searching for the missing car. Days after the report was lodged, a Santa Rosa police detective called the sheriff's office to tell them that he had spotted the Green Honda Civic which was believed to have been stolen. 

When deputy Jason Little tried to stop the car minutes later, Ward, who was driving his own car, initially began to pull over, but later led police on a five-mile pursuit that reached speeds of more than 70 mph. After Little used the PIT maneuver - in which officers ram their vehicles into a fleeing vehicle to force it to swerve sideways - Ward finally gave up the chase. 

Sonoma County sheriff's deputy Charlie Blount arrived at the scene and all the officers pointed guns at Ward, ordering him to get his hands up in the air, according to the footage

After he obliged, they told him to used one hand to open the door of his car. After Ward failed to do so, the officers, including Blout, tried to pull him out of the window while Ward yelled, “My legs! My legs!”

During the struggle, Blout cried out, saying that the victim had bitten him. After Little complained of the same, Blount pulled Ward's head out of the window by his hair and slammed it into the car's frame. A crunching noise could be heard and Ward moaned. After he stopped struggling, another officer broke the window on the other side of the driver's seat and pulled Ward out of the car. 

“Is he conscious?” Blount asked, to which Little said, "No, we need medical, man. Get medical."

As the police rolled Ward onto the side and started searching him bodily, Deputy Nick Jax arrived on the scene and told the other officers that the man lying unconscious in front of them was the car's owner.

“I don't know why he ran,” Jax said. “You have every - All this, it's legit. He had no reason to run. But I was out with him earlier, like two hours ago, at his house. The car wasn't there at the time. Obviously, he somehow, he made contact with the guy and got it. But he was here two hours ago, and this is him.” 

Then someone noticed that Ward had stopped breathing. After officers administered CPR, the police transported Ward to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

“We release these videos so the community can get as full a picture as possible about critical incidents in our county, regardless of whether it puts us in a good light or bad,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said at the video release event, adding that Blount had been on administrative leave since the incident and would remain so until the end of the internal investigation. 

Blount's attorney, Harry Stern, said his client, who has served the Sonoma County sheriff's office for 19 years, was not responsible for Ward's death. 

“Frankly, Ward caused his own death by inexplicably taking a number of bizarre actions that confirmed in the deputies' minds that he was an armed carjacker, rather than the victim of that crime,” Stern said in a statement. “It is my understanding that the medical evidence will show that Mr Ward had a serious pre-existing condition and had methamphetamine in his system - most significantly, there were no indications of trauma to his neck.”