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Goodbye Officer Guydan

I loved the old TV documentary series Connections, which tied together events, inventions, and people centuries apart. In that vein let's connect two seemingly random police reports of the last month. The most recent involves the May 26th arrest of Dylan Swartout on a burglary charge. This is far from Mr. Swartout's (also known as Dylan Kiely) first rodeo with law enforcement. In September of 2012 I happened to stop by the Ten Mile Court for a random check of the goings on. Mr. Swartout, who is periodically homeless, was on trial for abusing his dog, Frankie. Largely due to some adept lawyering by the late Public Defender Tom Croak, Mr. Swartout won his two day jury trial. While covering that trial I made the acquaintance of a Fort Bragg resident, who, months later, provided a tip about an under reported police shooting. It turned out to be the only time a Fort Bragg police officer discharged his/her weapon in the entirety of 2012. It is likely the next time was when Lt. John Naulty had to defend himself during the tragic events of March 19, 2014.

The December 22, 2012 shooting was not a gun battle with an armed killer. Instead it involved Fort Bragg Police Officer Craig Guydan shooting a thirty pound dog that had barked at him in front of a Fort Bragg house on Walnut Street.

Officer Guydan, who spent almost two full years on the Fort Bragg police force, was the subject of numerous formal and informal complaints by citizens and the Coast Copwatch group (I am a member). At some point in April rumors started to swirl that Officer Guydan was leaving the force. A phone call to Chief Mayberry confirmed the reports.

This takes us to a May 8th Fort Bragg Police Dept. press release, as well as the recollections of witnesses. Officer Guydan's last case in Fort Bragg started out in Bainbridge Park where he was sucker punched by a suspect. Guydan and other patrolmen gave chase and the wrongdoer was eventually apprehended near the Main Street fire station. Unfortunately, Officer Oscar Lopez was also injured in the chase, tackle and arrest.

If things were truly full circle perhaps the May 8th suspect's dog would have taken a nip out of Officer Guydan, but there was no dog. And Craig Guydan is not leaving police work. He is moving on to another police department, with the City of Cotati.

Cotati's police force might be more to Guydan's liking. On May 10, 2013 Cotati police officers broke down the door of a home after responding to a noise complaint from a neighbor. By the time the police arrived on scene there was no more noise. A couple and their roommate inside the home in question told the officers that there had been a brief, loud argument in the backyard over how to spend a tax refund, but that nothing was wrong. The couple, Jennifer and James Wood, and the roommate, James Helton, spoke through a window while holding up their hands to indicate that they didn't possess weapons. The officers demanded that the residents open their front door. Mr. Wood asked if the Cotati police officers had a search warrant. Reportedly the police reply was, “We don't need one.”

“Why aren't you coming out?” one of the officers asked.

“Because we don't live in a police state,” Mr. Helton responded.

With Mrs. Wood's cell phone camera recording events, the Cotati police broke down the door then tased all three residents, including multiple times for Mr. Wood. The video recording ceased after ninety-six seconds when Mrs. Wood and her cell phone were struck by the electric shock current of the Cotati police tasers.

Mr. Wood was charged with resisting, obstructing, or delaying a police officer. This January, twelve Sonoma County citizens returned a hung jury verdict, split 6-6 on the charge against James Wood. After the trial, Defense attorney Benjamin Adams stated, “The fact that a jury of American citizens could not agree that such a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment meant the entry into my clients' home was unlawful, shows how far this country has disintegrated.”

Perhaps the only good news in all this: Frankie the dog was taken away from Dylan Swartout more than a year ago and is living a healthier, happier life with an anonymous, caring human friend. Pinky, the dog shot by Craig Guydan, miraculously survived and also is living a quiet, contented home life.

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