Man dies during fight at motel with Rohnert Park police officers

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A man died after he was shot with a Taser during a fight with two police officers attempting to arrest him Friday at a Rohnert Park motel, authorities said.

An attorney representing his family identified the man as Branch Wroth, a Cotati construction worker.

He was the older brother of Esa Wroth, a Forestville man who was paid $1.25 million by Sonoma County last year to settle an excessive force lawsuit after he was shot 23 times with a Taser while being booked into the jail on drunken driving charges.

Attorney Izaak Schwaiger said the similarities of the two incidents is “not lost” on the family.

“I don’t want to call it irony because it’s not the right word,” Schwaiger said. “The significance and the weirdness of having similar events is not lost on them. But it’s not first in their mind.”

Wroth was 41, according to voter registration records, which list a home in Forestville for his address. He had a 16-year-old son who did not live with him, Schwaiger said.

Wroth’s Facebook page said he graduated from El Molino High School.

Rohnert Park Public Safety officers on Friday responded to a call about 3:15 p.m. from a security guard reporting that a man staying at the Budget Inn was “acting strangely,” Sgt. Jeff Justice said in a statement issued late Friday night.

The man, who was alone in the room, was “incoherent and appeared to be in an altered state,” Justice said.

The man had an outstanding arrest warrant. He told the officers he had been poisoned with chemicals but the details were unclear, Justice said.

When the officers attempted to take him into custody, the man became combative, Justice said. One of the officers deployed his Taser and the officers forced him to the floor.

The man at that point stopped resisting and “became unresponsive,” Justice said. The officers immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and called for a fire and ambulance response.

Emergency services personnel were unable to revive the man, Justice said.

Rohnert Park authorities asked the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to handle the investigation under established law enforcement protocols, Justice said.

Spencer Crum, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, did not release additional details Saturday, citing the ongoing investigation. He also declined to identify the man who died during the altercation.

But Schwaiger, the family attorney, said Esa Wroth was notified of his brother’s death by sheriff’s deputies who went to Esa’s Forestville home late Friday.

Schwaiger said he did not know why Branch was at the hotel where police found him.

“We know he didn’t have to die, but we don’t know much more than that,” Schwaiger said.

Schwaiger represented Esa Wroth in his lawsuit against the county for excessive force by correctional deputies inside the jail. Esa had been taken into custody on Jan. 2, 2013, following his arrest for drunken driving. He became uncooperative while being booked at the jail and resisted efforts to subdue him, jail officials said. Correctional deputies hit him to gain compliance and shocked him with Tasers during a struggle, they said.

The incident was captured on a 29-minute videotape. On the eve of the trial, prosecutors dismissed resisting and assault charges against Wroth in exchange for his plea to an alcohol-related reckless driving offense.

Staff Writer Guy Kovner contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

SOURCESanta Rosa Press Democrat
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