Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy no longer employed after using excessive force during domestic dispute

SONOMA COUNTY (BCN) — A Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who was deemed to have used excessive force during a “non-criminal domestic argument” in Sonoma Valley last month, is no longer employed with the sheriff’s office, a sheriff’s sergeant said Thursday afternoon.

Deputy Scott Thorne, who was hired as a reserve officer in June 2015 and began working full-time in April, used excessive force with his baton and Taser against a husband during the domestic dispute around 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 24.

Sgt. Spencer Crum said the sheriff’s office is prohibited from saying if Thorne was fired or voluntarily left the force. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department are conducting an independent criminal investigation into Thorne’s use of force, Crum said.

“He had no probable cause for an arrest and used excessive force using his baton and Taser,” Crum said.

“Sheriff’s Administration felt that the actions of the primary deputy (Thorne) were excessive for the circumstances and were in violation of our use of force policy,” Crum said.

The sheriff’s office’s policy specifically states that use of force by deputies must be reasonable and appropriate for every situation, Crum said.

Thorne and deputies Beau Zastrow and Anthony Diehm responded to a domestic dispute call by a neighbor. A woman at the residence opened the front door and the deputies entered the home.

Diehm interviewed the woman and Thorne and Zastrow went to the back of the home where the husband was locked in a bedroom, Crum said.

According to the sheriff’s office’s account of the incident, Thorne forced open the bedroom door when the husband refused to come out. The husband was lying on a bed and Thorne ordered him to stand up but he refused.

The husband pulled away when Thorne grabbed his arm, and Thorne shot the husband with his Taser but it had little effect. The husband sat up and pulled the Taser wires out, and Thorne then struck the man in the leg with his baton.

Zastrow and Thorne tried to restrain the man in bed and Diehm arrived to assist. The man broke free and ran toward the bedroom door. Thorne struck the man several times with his baton and the man fell to the ground where the struggle continued. Diehm shot his Taser to no effect and three deputies were able to handcuff and arrest the man.

The deputies then determined there had been a non-criminal domestic-related argument between the husband and wife. The husband was taken to a hospital for treatment before he was booked in the Sonoma County Jail at 1:12 a.m. Sept. 25 for threatening an officer, resisting and obstructing an officer and battery on an officer. He was released on $10,000 bail at 2:36 a.m.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office informed the sheriff’s office on Oct. 11 it would not file criminal charges against the husband. The sheriff’s office did an internal review of the incident that included reviewing the video from the deputies’ body-worn cameras, Crum said.

The sheriff’s Administration Office then determined Thorne’s actions violated its excessive force policy, Crum said.

“The Sheriff (Steve Freitas) is deeply concerned over the incident that transpired. We are conducting a thorough investigation of all deputies involved and will take prompt, firm and appropriate actions in this matter.

“We have reached out to the victim in this case and offered our sincere apology. We also want to apologize to our community. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office strives to do our absolute best to provide professional public safety services. This is an isolated incident that we are proactively addressing, and does not reflect the values of the Sheriff’s Office,” Crum said.

Zastrow, who joined the sheriff’s office in September 2013, and Diehm, who started in May 2015, are still on duty. They also are the subject of an internal investigation, Crum said.

“We don’t believe they are a danger to the public,” Crum said.

There were no previous complaints about Thorne before the incident, Crum said.

Sheriff Steve Freitas did not return a call for further comment on the incident late Thursday afternoon.

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