COTATI, CA — A couple was violently tased and arrested when police officers broke down their front door in response to a noise complaint. Despite the shocking video that captured the incident, the police were cleared for assaulting the couple and breaking into the home, and instead the residents were put on trial.
The incident took place on May 10th, 2013, when a neighbor called the police because they allegedly heard “yelling and sobbing” coming from the residence next-door. Police were sent to investigate at 3:48 p.m.
Officer Andrew Lyssand glares through the window. (Source: YouTube)
The residents, James Wood, 33, and his wife Jennifer, 29, admittedly had a loud argument in the backyard, but did not become violent and did not know that a nosy neighbor had phoned the police. They reportedly argued about whether to spend their tax refund money on fixing their car or buying a new one.
The couple’s roommate, James Helton, 32, was inside putting the Woods’ 2-year-old daughter down for a nap when the Cotati Police arrived, with guns already drawn. Helton summoned his roommates and the three began talking to the police through a window.
“We had our hands up against the glass. We were more than happy to talk through the glass, or he can have dispatch call our cellphones,” Helton later explained. “(An officer) became agitated and said, ‘No you’re going to do what I tell you to do.’ “
“I asked several times, ‘What am I being accused of?’” Wood told KPIX 5. “And when they didn’t answer, I asked, ‘do you have a search warrant?’ And they said, ‘No, we don’t need one.’ And I was like, ‘you’re not getting in here. I am not opening that door.’”
James & Jennifer Wood (Source: The Press Democrat)
Attempts to cite the 4th Amendment and peacefully exercise their rights were met with threats. Fearing for their safety, a cell-phone camera was produced to document the situation. The police quickly re-holstered their weapons.
“There’s no domestic violence,” the three residents echoed in unison, explaining they would not open the door without a warrant.
“Why are you guys not coming out?” demanded Officer Andrew Lyssand, eying the family through the glass.
“Because we don’t live in a police state, sir,” Helton responded.
Intent on proving him wrong, the officers prepared to breach the door. The negotiation had ended as quickly as it began.
As the video still recording, the door was kicked in and officers immediately entered with weapons drawn on the family.
“You have no right to be in here!” Woods reacted. “Do not touch her! You are assaulting her!”
The assailants quickly shot the residents with electric shock devices as they screamed in pain.
“Aaaahhhh! Help!! Help!!” cried Jennifer Wood, moments before the camera shorted out. The video abruptly ends.
A total of 96 seconds elapsed from the time the camera turned on until it cut out due to the attacks by police. Watch:
Each of the three were cited for obstructing law enforcement. James Woods was tased 5 times because he allegedly resisted Officer Eric Bilcich.
“They could plainly see I was not in distress,” Jennifer Wood explained. “I honestly did not want them inside my home.”
“I was afraid we might get shot,” James Wood recalled. “The only thing I could think of is, ‘I need to document this right now.’ “
Jennifer added: “The officer later tried to get me to say my husband abused me. But I told him, ‘the only one that hurt me was you.’”
Cotati officials predictably defended the actions of the officers. A press release stated that forced entry and tasing of everyone was “justified.” Officers were “forced to kick the door open,” police stated, adding that not kicking down the door “would be a neglect of duty.”
Police Chief Michael Parish said this break-in and assault was exemplary police work. “My officers were very professional and very calm, and I’m proud of their performance,” he said to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Judge Peter Ottenweller backed the actions of the state, claiming that violent entry was justified to ensure safety of the residents.
James Wood was eventually taken to trial. On January 28th, the jury hung in a 6-6 split. Despite the disturbing video evidence and the hindsight knowledge that nothing except loud voices had caused this violent situation, half the jury was content with imprisoning the defendant.
“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,” noted defense attorney Benjaman Adams in an interview with Police State USA. “There is little hope for salvage.”
It is unclear whether Wood will be retried for “resisting” the aggressors.
What does it say about police when they are willing to escalate calm situations into violence so readily? What does it say about their superiors when they endorse this behavior? The police chief, the prosecutor, the judge, and even half the jury were OK with what they saw in the video. This systemic tolerance of government force and violation of rights demonstrates that a police state may come not from the denial of the will of the majority — but instead in its fulfillment.
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