On Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving, what began as a seemingly minor incident in downtown Point Arena turned deadly. At approximately 12pm the California Highway Patrol and Redwood Coast Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Suddith responded to a call of a man allegedly throwing rocks at an adult and a child and stealing a diaper bag in the 200 block of Main Street.
Daniel Cedar Saulsbury, 39, of Point Arena, led law enforcement officers on a foot chase and, after being tasered several times, died as paramedics struggled to revive him at the west end of Mill Street in Point Arena.
Saulsbury, who had been living with his mother in Fort Bragg, had been in the area for several days, said witnesses, and had been acting erratically at times. Saulsbury had a long history with drugs, alcohol and other run-ins with Mendocino County law enforcement.
One witness who asked not to be identified said she was playing pool with Saulsbury the night before and he seemed normal and happy. But on Wednesday she saw him walking east on Port Road, smiling but acting out of character.
Deb Parsons of Gualala said he was in the post office shortly before the police were called when Saulsbury hurried in and asked to "lock the door," saying people were after him. Saulsbury, then reentered the post office and repeated his plea to lock the door.
Parsons, who said she didn't know Saulsbury, thought perhaps it was a joke. “I didn't know what was happening,” she said.
Shortly after that, a CHP officer who was nearby responded to the call while Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were en route. The CHP officer and later fire chief Mike Suddith followed Saulsbury around town when he failed to respond to demands.
One witness across the street from the Arena Theater who knew Saulsbury said Saulsbury climbed on top of a car and threw rocks at the CHP Officer. Saulsbury then entered the Arena Pharmacy parking lot where owner Chris Jorgensen saw the CHP officer with a taser gun in hand and a line going out of it into Saulsbury who was on the ground. According to Jorgensen, Saulsbury suddenly jumped up, seemingly unaffected, and began walking south down Main Street. According to radio scanner traffic, the CHP officer called for Code 3 backup.
A group of kids playing soccer on Mill Street saw Saulsbury walking toward them, rock in hand, with the CHP Officer walking 30 feet behind him with his gun drawn and pointed to the ground while Suddith followed in his vehicle.
According to several witnesses on Mill Street, Saulsbury was able to get behind the wheel of his pickup truck which was parked near the end of Mill Street. At that time three police officers approached Saulsbury and one banged his baton on the window and ordered him out of his truck. He was pulled out and placed facedown on the ground and handcuffed. The group of soccer kids said almost in unison that they had witnessed Saulsbury being tasered several times prior to being pulled onto the ground. The fire department and Medic 120 Coast life-support ambulance were staged close to the sea.
At one point Saulsbury, who continued to be combative, suddenly turned pale and unresponsive. CPR was administered for approximately 20 minutes said witnesses. According to a Mendocino County Sheriff's press release, Saulsbury died at the scene.
He was placed in the Medic 120 ambulance and taken to the Point Arena CalFire station where according to ambulance personnel he was airlifted by a Calstar helicopter and taken to a hospital.
Two crime scene areas were taped off in Point Arena, one on Mill Street where Saulsbury went down and one in the Arena Pharmacy parking lot.
Because this was an officer involved fatality, the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office is handling the investigation and will determine if there were any constitutional violations or use of excessive force in the incident said Terry Gross, attorney for the city of Point Arena.
According to Gross, Kevin Bailey (of the DA’s office) is the chief investigator on the case and he will be contacting witnesses obtained from the preliminary investigation. If people witnessed the incident and are not contacted by the DA's office by Monday, December 8 and have information they think is important to the case they should call the DA's office at 463-4211, Gross said.
Gross also said she reached out to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department and CHP who both indicated they will do their own internal investigations to determine if officers followed appropriate practices and procedures.
Saulsbury had a three-year-old son who was apparently in his custody although he had a history of spousal abuse in Mendocino County. His mother told deputies that he had been clean and sober for several years but feared he had met up with the wrong friends in Point Arena when she was told about his death.
Saulsbury, who attended Point Arena high school, had a history of trouble with Mendocino law enforcement dating back to 2006, 2007 and 2009 when he was arrested for DUI and possession of narcotics. In 2007 he was also arrested for reckless driving resulting in injury and an additional charge of contempt of court. While on felony probation for domestic violence in 2011 he was charged with inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, child endangerment and battery. In September of this year Saulsbury was arrested for assault, domestic violence, inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitants.
A 7pm candlelight vigil in downtown Point Arena brought friends together last Thursday.
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