Use of Force

Did a Controversial Neck Hold Kill This Man?

The cops pulled over David Glen Ward for "stealing" what turned out to be his own car. Then things went south.

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The chase of a suspected car thief turned deadly after California cops used a carotid restraint on the driver. Then the deceased man, 52-year-old David Glen Ward, turned out to be the rightful owner of the vehicle.

According to a statement released by the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD), a vehicle theft occurred in an unincorporated part of Sonoma County on November 24. The theft was being investigated by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office (SCSO), and the suspect, who was not Ward, was reportedly armed.

In the early hours of November 27, an off-duty SRPD detective thought he saw the stolen vehicle and called in a report to the sheriff's office. SCSO Deputy Jason Little responded, as he was the closest to the scene. Followed by Sebastopol officers Andrew Bauer and Ethan Stockton in their patrol vehicles, Little located the vehicle in question and attempted to make a traffic stop. According to the statement, the vehicle initially stopped, then fled. The officers pursued. The seven-minute chase ended when the driver of the vehicle, Ward, came to a stop.

Now joined by Deputy Charlie Blount, the officers approached the vehicle and told Ward to open the door. According to the police statement, he did not: He put his hands up, continued to lower them when the officers were out of view, and finally rolled the window down. When the officers attempted to remove him through the window, the statement claims, Ward bit both of the deputies.

The officers used personal body weapons to strike Ward and deployed a taser through the window. The latter was apparently ineffective. Standing outside the driver's door, Blount then placed an arm inside the vehicle and around Ward's neck. He then "attempted to administer a carotid restraint." This, the statement explains, is "a way of controlling a combative person by placing pressure on the carotid artery, which causes the person to lose consciousness."

The officers then broke the passenger window open, entered through the passenger door, and removed and handcuffed Ward. In a call to dispatch, another deputy who had arrived on the scene said that Ward did not appear to be breathing. Someone administered CPR. Ward was transported to the hospital and died about an hour later.

Law enforcement has since identified Ward as the registered owner of the vehicle he was driving. An official cause of death has not yet been identified, but the hold is surely a leading possibility.

Sgt. Juan Valencia, an SCSO spokesperson, told the San Francisco Chronicle that a carotid restraint differs from a chokehold because, when properly used, it does not constrict the airway. (SCSO's use of force policy states that a deputy must first complete approved training before administering the carotid restraint "due to the potential for injury.") Earlier this year in another part of the state, activists called on the San Diego Police Department to abandon the practice, arguing that the potential for the maneuver to become a chokehold is too high. Law enforcement pushed back, arguing that it was an effective policing tool. The department ultimately decided to continue the practice, but instituted policy changes following a review.

The SRPD will conduct an investigation while the Marin County Coroner's Office tries to identify the cause of death. The four officers initially involved in the arrest are on administrative leave.

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  1. He then “attempted to administer a carotid restraint.” This, the statement explains, is “a way of controlling a combative person by placing pressure on the carotid artery, which causes the person to lose consciousness.”

    AKA “choking him the fuck out”.

    1. Exactly…just because you sanitize the term doesn’t change what it is. Next, they’ll be saying that one of their officers engaged in cranial nerve tissue extraction via high velocity lead injections.

      1. “Vulcan neck pinch”

    2. No, a choke hold attempts to stop breathing. A carotid hold attempts to stop blood flow to the brain.

      1. “Attempts” is the operative word. But it doesn’t matter- restricting air to the lungs or blood to the brain are both pretty violent and deadly.

      2. Technically speaking a “carotid hold” is also called a “blood choke” to differentiate it from an “air choke.” In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the term carotid hold used. In both cases the goal is cut off or “choke” the flow of something – either oxygenated blood to the brain or air to the lungs. Either way the end result can be deadly if done incorrectly.

        1. Unless you are the second coming off Chuck Norris, it is pretty much impossible to put pressure on a particular part of a struggling man’s neck with any consistency.

          All chokes are air chokes.

          1. But Mr. Spock mastered doing it instantly!

        2. “Either way the end result can be deadly if done incorrectly.”

          Even if done perfectly, both can still be deadly if applied for too long, or if the subject has certain medical conditions.

      3. No, a choke hold can either attempt to restrict breathing or cut off blood flow. A rear naked choke is designed to cut off blood flow. It is a carotid restraint, if you will.

      4. Such a hold was successfully applied on Dan Severn by Royce Gracie–with his feet–in a mixed martial arts match. The pay-per-view cut out at 12 min and it was days before we found out, but Severn, who had been wadding Gracie into a ball, fainted but was otherwise unharmed. These guys had good training. The cop apparently didn’t, but the driver, from the narrative, may not have behaved wisely.

        1. The fighters in those matches are in top physical condition.

          Both air chokes and blood chokes will kill anyone if applied long enough. MMA matches have refs there to force a fighter to break such a hold as soon as the other fighter passes out. Cops don’t come with impartial referees.

          Also such hold can kill much faster than you might think if used on someone with certain medical conditions.

    3. He just wanted to give him a haircut

  2. The SRPD will conduct an investigation while the Marin County Coroner’s Office tries to identify the cause of death.

    Hopefully, this investigation ends better than the first one ended(?).

  3. Wrong car? Did they check the license plate number?

    1. Reason’s article doesn’t mention it, but it was the right car. Ward had reported it stolen three days prior. I couldn’t find anything on when he had recovered it.

  4. This is a very dangerous tactic. They’ve seen to many movies where the good guy puts the bad guy to ‘sleep’.

    1. I hate cop overreach and abuse of power more than most people. But blood chokes are very safe. Everyday, thousands of people choke each other out on the mats of grappling schools around the country and the world, and AFAIK, there has been maybe one or two deaths in the 20 years since the popularity of grappling boomed. Here is one case.

      Now, it is true that people that go to grappling schools tend to be younger and in shape. So a fat dude in his 50s that eats fried chicken each day and hasn’t exercised for months might be a different story. However, I would much rather be choked out than beaten on the head with a baton or a jackboot.

      1. But blood chokes are very safe.

        When executed correctly, yes. But I highly doubt these cops were able to do it correctly while reaching through a car window and attempting to subdue a struggling person, training or no training (which I highly doubt is on the same level as someone who practices grappling regularly has).

        However, I would much rather be choked out than beaten on the head with a baton or a jackboot.

        Depends on if they perform the choke correctly or not. I suppose getting choked to death might be slightly less painful than being beaten to death, but dead is dead.

      2. What’s safe in a martial arts context may not be safe in a live combat context. One difference is that if someone doesn’t know that a blood choke is safe, they’re going to react by fighting for their life. Trying to escape a choke improperly can be just as dangerous as applying one improperly, especially if you’re acting in panic.

        Not blaming the victim here, to be clear. There’s no general expectation that someone would remain calm if they’re in a chokehold. Either way, a tool that is safe unless the guy totally freaks out is not an ok tool for law enforcement to use.

      3. However, I would much rather be choked out than beaten on the head with a baton or a jackboot.

        I like how “police not escalating violence against a non-violent offender” isn’t even mentioned.

        A realistic omission, to be sure, but still tragic.

        1. So many things don’t make sense from the description unless one assumes the cops just want to make trouble. If the driver’s side window is open and the driver is unconscious, why break the passenger side window to get at him? Just reach in and open the door. For that matter, why was it necessary to have him step out of the car? Police are much safer if you’re sitting inside the car and they’re standing outside it when they interrogate you.

          1. So many things don’t make sense from the description unless one assumes the cops just want to make trouble.

            Which is even weirder when you remember that the story we’re hearing is their story. It’s basically impossible for any new information to come to light that makes them look better.

          2. There’s no desire to interrogate after a high speed chase. Get on the ground and crawl toward me so I can cuff you while trying to dislocate your shoulder.

      4. Even in jiu-jitsu, they say the carotid pinch is dangerous.

      5. ” But blood chokes are very safe. Everyday, thousands of people choke each other out on the mats of grappling schools around the country and the world, and AFAIK, there has been maybe one or two deaths in the 20 years since the popularity of grappling boomed.”

        Those people are in top physical condition and both sides know what they are doing. They also have referees and EMTs on standby.

        Choke holds of any type can kill quickly if applied to someone with certain medical conditions (like weak hearts).

      6. Blood chokes are very safe, especially compared to air chokes, in the context of a complete CQC or martial arts system. The problems arise when they are taught outside of that context, as a primary method of controlling someone. Blood chokes can cause brain damage and/or death if held too long-which is far more likely when applied during a potentially life threatening encounter by someone with adrenaline induced tunnel vision than in training. A proper blood choke can also be counter intuitive; your impulse will be to tighten up and pull back, which can catch the trachea. Enough training in grappling can leave someone able to stay clear headed enough apply the choke correctly in a fight, but if a choke hold is too much of a bread and butter technique, and is applied without the required background in grappling, than a blood choke becomes quite dangerous

  5. Any martial artist would describe this as a chokehold.

    The reason chokeholds shouldn’t be used by police is because they can cause serious neck injuries if done poorly. Whether you are restricting blood or air is not relevant at all.

    1. That’s not the only reason. Chokeholds can kill quickly if applied to someone with certain medical conditions.

      MMA fighters have to get medical clearances before entering the ring.

      Suspects being chased by cops don’t come with medical clearances.

      1. I have never needed any medical clearance (other than signing a waiver) to compete in Judo or BJJ tournaments, and I have done so many times. This might change once I start competing in the 50+ divisions, but I don’t believe so.

        As far as chokes causing strokes/heart attacks -> I have heard stories of this happening, but haven’t been able to find any sources better than, “I know a guy who knew a guy who once saw …”. Neck injuries from chokes are well documented though.

  6. Couldn’t they have used Science Officer Spock’s Vulcan Mind-Meld shoulder hold instead?

    Newer, more advanced methods like this (more training) is clearly needed!

  7. According to the statement, the vehicle initially stopped, then fled.

    Well, that seems odd. Anyone want to take a guess as to what happened that spooked the guy, leading to him fleeing after initially complying? Anyone want to guess whether the dash cam footage will ever be released?

    Anyway, here’s a tidbit not included in this article. The police had the right car. Ward had reported it stolen three days prior, and hadn’t given any update since then. The articles I found didn’t make any mention of when Ward had recovered his car though.

    1. He might have reported it stolen because it got “borrowed” without permission by a relative he doesn’t like. That person later voluntarily returns the car before the police show up. At which point, Ward happy to have his car back forgets he called the cops in the first place.

  8. He then “attempted to administer a carotid restraint.” This, the statement explains, is “a way of controlling a combative person by placing pressure on the carotid artery, which causes the person to lose consciousness.”

    (SCSO’s use of force policy states that a deputy must first complete approved training before administering the carotid restraint “due to the potential for injury.”)

    Sounds like they just described a “rear naked choke” which is a pretty common move in Brazilian Jujitsu and MMA. And yes, it does have the potential to kill a person if done incorrectly, which, last I checked, most cops weren’t exactly what you’d call BJJ or MMA experts “approved training” or not.

    Actually, I suspect the “approved training” consists of watching some UFC matches while fondling themselves and then going down to the drunk tank and taking turns choking motherfuckers out. The training is complete when they can get one of the drunks to shit their pants.

    1. Thanks… I spit Coca-Cola all over my monitor… well done.

  9. Remember when Reason was outraged by the fed’s abuse of power?
    Yea… me neither

  10. Frankly, Police should not be putting their hands, arms, knees around the neck of any suspect. I doubt very many cops are trained to execute these holds in any safe or effective manner given they are trained to use overwhelming force on any suspect they encounter.

  11. He’d still be alive today if he had never called the police in the first place.

    1. Or if he simply handed them his ID and registration instead of fleeing. Not that he deserved to be killed or even choked, but the police had a legitimate reason to pull him over. Everyone of these cases would have gone differently if the victim just followed police commands. If the police do something wrong, take it to court.

      1. Everyone of these cases would have gone differently if the victim just followed police commands.

        I’m curious how you spin the cases of Tamir Rice or Philando Castille to justify this idiocy.

        Yes, following police instructions can increase your chances of survival in many cases. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes cops shoot unarmed people in the back, then drop a taser at the body’s feet to fabricate justification.

        Sometimes police are bad actors.

        1. Maybe not everyone, but most. Those are good examples of unprovoked police malfeasance. Police are more than sometimes bad actors, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore their commands, flee, or fight. And police can by in large only “shoot unarmed people in the back” if they are running away (and thankfully the fleeing fugitive days are behind us.) But do you deny that in this instance, the victim would most likely be alive if he had just pulled over and given the police his ID and registration?

          1. But do you deny that […]

            I was pretty clear with what I was denying, which was your obscene victim-blaming.

          2. Is summary execution a reasonable to response to someone irritating the police by being uncooperative?

      2. If the police do something wrong, take it to court.

        Hard to do if you’re dead. Very little chance of success in court even if you live.

        Here’s the real way to suppress police violence: when they injure or kill people, charge them, prosecute them, and put them in prison, like would happen to the rest of us.

        1. Ah the police Union, harbinger of unculpability.

      3. Some cases, sure. Certainly not all of them – plenty of people have been killed while complying with police demands, and plenty more have been killed because the cops issued them contradictory commands and they couldn’t figure out how to comply in time to save their own lives.

        Given that there’s such a substantial risk to your own person in interacting with the police, some people become afraid of them and take actions that are ill-advised. I don’t think fear should be considered criminal, particularly when it’s reasonably justified.

        1. That guy in the hotel where the cop told him to crawl forward then back and didn’t know which way he wanted the victim to crawl, so he just shot him.

  12. Is there video on this? I am wondering if he actually resisted. If there was some reason for him to be attempting to flee police, they would be publicly sliming him with it by now.

    The idea that they can control a struggle enough to safely apply this hold is of course ludicrous. The potential for this end result far outweighs law enforcement’s want of compliance.

    1. The only reason to flee the police is if the officer looks like Robert Patrick and is looking for a kid. It doesn’t matter if the they are shitbags, fight them in court and not on the street were they can shoot and choke you.

      1. fight them in court

        You’ve heard of qualified immunity, right?

      2. I can think of other reasons to flee the police. For example, if you’re a woman traveling alone at night on a dark and lonely road and you see the blue lights behind you, you should definitely try to get to a place with lights and other people around before you stop.

    2. Yeah. I think it would be helpful to know how and why he fled the police and led them on a 7 minute chase.

      Did they then subdue him because he resisted or because they were high on adrenaline?

      This seems like the wrong case to extrapolate into a policy discussion.

      1. “Mistakes were made on both sides”? Fuck that. A man is dead.

      2. “I think it would be helpful to know how and why he fled the police and led them on a 7 minute chase.”

        Problem: The cops killed the only witness that can tell us why he fled.

        1. Perhaps BECAUSE he could tell us that.

  13. Another case where I’m all for the feds charging the officer with violation of civil rights. Murdering an innocent man is inexcusable under any circumstances.

  14. Look, I’m not in favor of police abuse, but this guy was driving a car he knew was reported stolen, he resisted and bit the police, what the heck did he expect to happen?

    Maybe the facts aren’t as reported, but if they are, this is all on him.

    1. The facts, as reported, are that this man would still be alive if he had managed to get home without encountering the police.

      The facts, as reported, also include the man initially complying, then inexplicably bolting.

      The facts, as reported, have police choosing to escalate violence against someone that obviously poses them no real threat.

      The facts, as reported, have police choosing to risk killing a man rather then chilling for a while with the old man in his car.

      So even if you excuse all the obvious questions in the “as reported”, you have the professional armed government agents choosing to risk killing a man for the crime of not complying, rather then those same professional armed government agents choosing to deescalate the situation and resolve it with fewer corpses.

  15. Ok, so I’m not exactly an expert, but I have some experience in choke holds in a martial arts setting. In my opinion, there is no way to safely deploy a carotid choke (aka blood choke) through a car window from the outside. I’m not saying it’s impossible to execute, but it won’t be safe.

    The angle is all wrong. You need to constrict both sides of the neck WITHOUT crushing the trachea, and to do that with one arm you need to be behind the person. Trying to do it from the side will constrict or crush the trachea because in reaching in the angle between your upper arm and forearm will be too obtuse. It can’t thereby straddle the trachea safely. Police really shouldn’t use carotid chokes except when deadly force is called for; it’s too hard to deploy safely in non-idea situations with a struggling opponent unless you get their back, and even then you’d better have way more training than police get as a matter of course.

  16. Caps are not your friends. They can’t be trusted. They are the enforcers for the state. They don’t give a rat’s ass about regular people. They are public union thugs. trained to be soldiers, not peace officers.

  17. Cops are not your friends. They can’t be trusted. They are the enforcers for the state. They don’t give a rat’s ass about regular people. They are public union thugs. trained to be soldiers, not peace officers.

  18. These are the same retards who can fire off 70 rounds at a suspect and connect four times, and we’re supposed to believe that they’re qualified to administer any kind of “hold” that shuts off air or blood? Bullshit. When ‘roid rage spikes their adrenaline they can’t even hold a pistol competently, but under identical conditions they can safely choke someone out? Fuck that.

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