The top 12 Darwin Awards for 2012
Darwin Awards are presented unofficially and arbitrarily to those cases, culled from the files of the Sonoma Police Department and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, that represent the highest level of low-functioning behavior by people whose actions may retard the forward progress of human evolution.
Thursday, Jan. 12:
12:57 a.m. – So near and yet so far.
When a 27-year-old Sonoma woman left her cellphone in the bathroom of a Plaza bar, someone apparently offered it a new home in an apartment complex in the 700 block of First Street West. The woman assumed that was where her phone ended up because she tracked it their via its built-in GPS. But while global positioning provided an address, it did not provide an apartment number. So the cellphone owner called police to report it stolen and asked to have it recovered. When a police officer arrived at the scene he discovered there were several apartments at the address and, given the very early morning hour, he declined to rouse all the residents and search every apartment.
The cellphone owner, however, insisted, and her insistence, according to the police report, became boisterous and belligerent, prompting the officer to ask how she had arrived at the apartment complex. She said she drove, indicating the 2006 Honda Ridgeline parked nearby.
The officer conducted a field sobriety test, the woman registered a .109 blood alcohol level, and was cited for DUI. She was released to a sober friend, still minus her cell phone.
Monday, Jan. 16:
9:56 a.m. – And while you’re here…
Police responded five times to 9-1-1 calls from an 81-year-old woman in the 600 block of First Street West. The first three times she asked to be picked up off the floor. The second two times she wanted police to change her TV channel. Officers asked dispatch to explain to the woman the meaning of the word “emergency.”
Thursday, Feb. 16
6:15 p.m. – ‘Am I going to jail?’ ‘Yes you are.’
A 30-year-old frequent flyer, arrested so many times that he has been charged with violating the terms of a probation imposed when he violated a previous probation that was itself imposed for being drunk in the Plaza, was spotted by a police officer staggering along West Napa Street, less than a block from the Plaza.
Since the officer knew that the staggering transient was still on probation from a previous arrest, and that the terms of that probation included the prohibition against possessing or consuming alcohol, he stopped to more precisely verify the man’s condition. When he shined his flashlight on the unsteady flyer it was instantly clear the man was heavily intoxicated.
Extremely familiar with the routine by now, the serial probation violator asked the officer, “Am I going to go to jail?”
“Yes you are,” the officer replied.
Whereupon, instead of turning to be cuffed as the officer instructed, the man pulled a bottle of Skye vodka out of his backpack and raised it to his lips for a final slug before the inevitable incarceration. The officer, in turn, swung his flashlight, deftly smashing the vodka bottle, and then cuffed the disappointed tippler and placed him in the patrol car for a trip to the county jail.
Sunday, April 15:
1:48 p.m. – Unwise storage site.
Not all Darwin awards go to lawbreakers. Sometimes their victims demonstrate equal levels of ignorance.
A guest at a downtown motel told police his Toyota FJ Cruiser had been broken into sometime during the previous night. When he went to the car at 8:20 the next morning, he told police, he discovered that a 17-inch Mac Powerbook was missing, along with a Qualcom digital tablet, an iPod, two silver mini-RAID drives, an iPad, a Canon 5D camera, a Canon 24-105 lens, a Canon 100 macro lens, a Canon 70-200 lens (all of them Canon’s ‘L’ series, professional lenses), a Swiss Army knife and a white plastic shopping bag with an X-Acto knife inside.
The 53-year-old victim, from Ojai, told police he had left the Toyota locked overnight. There was no sign of forced entry to the vehicle. The loss was estimated at $10,000.
Tuesday, April 17:
9:28 a.m. – Wire woman.
Police received a report that someone was trying to steal wire in broad daylight from a West MacArthur Street construction site. The reporting party described a white male with a white SUV.
When police arrived at the site they did not see a white SUV or a white male, but they did see a Hispanic female pulling a 124-foot section of wire through the site.
When police asked her what she was doing, the woman dropped the wire and said she was “just moving it,” according to the police report. She didn’t explain where or why.
The woman denied knowing a white man who might recently have been at the site, but claimed she had seen a man in a white truck who left.
The woman said she was in the area because her car battery had died somewhere near Sonoma Valley Hospital, but she wasn’t sure quite where.
A background check revealed that 30-year-old Megan Figueroa, of Petaluma, was on probation for burglary and had an outstanding warrant from Contra Costa County.
She was arrested for attempted grand theft of wire, the probation violation and the warrant, and because of her probation status, which allows search and seizure, the arresting officer called a Petaluma Sheriff’s deputy to conduct a search of her Petaluma home. There, deputies found a methadone pill, some hydrocodone pills, for which there were no prescriptions, and a glass pipe with methamphetamine residue.
In the garage they found several lengths of plastic-coated wire, stripped copper wire and, in the bed of a Toyota pickup, numerous brass couplings and wire strippers.
Property crimes detectives from the sheriff’s office were able to identify some of the items as belonging to PG&E.
Figueroa was booked into the Sonoma County jail with additional charges of possessing controlled substances and controlled substance paraphernalia.
Tuesday, June 19:
5:36 p.m. - Eggs at 10 paces.
A 50-year-old Sonoma man and his 53-year-old fiancé employed a unique set of weapons when their domestic dispute turned physical. Police were called by the woman’s daughter and when they arrived, they found both combatants heavily egged and dripping yolks and bits of shell.
As the story emerged, it appeared that the female partner, who had driven the man home after finishing some grocery shopping, had refused his request for a ride in the car, because he had no license after a DUI conviction.
The ensuing argument got heated, the recently purchased eggs came readily to hand and an exchange of projectiles followed.
The man allegedly tried to push the woman’s head to the floor and, although neither party wanted to press charges, police were obliged to arrest the male partner as dictated by domestic violence protocol.
Tuesday, July 10:
2 a.m.–Beer foray unravels for Valley trio
Running out of beer before dawn can lead to bad judgment, especially if you’re only 15.
So it was with three thirsty souls – aged 15, 21 and 23 – who decided to rectify their brew deficit and slake their thirsts with an impromptu, apparently impulsive and poorly-planned visit to Safeway.
According to the police report, the 15-year-old instructed his older associates to stop outside the store while he went inside and conducted an after-hours extraction.
Moments later, the jamming juvenile came running out the front door with a case of Budweiser, a case of Corona and a Safeway employee in pursuit. There was a brief altercation with the employee before the fleet-footed beer snatcher hopped into the car and the trio pulled away, leaving the Safeway clerk with a clear view of the black Chevy Malibu.
The description was quickly passed to police who caught up with the car on Fifth Street West near Verano Avenue. When an officer arrived, the driver was out of the car and standing by the open trunk emitting alcohol fumes from his lungs.
As additional officers arrived, the driver was asked to perform some field sobriety tests, on which he did poorly. A preliminary breath test produced a blood alcohol level of .147, at which point he was handcuffed and charged with DUI.
In the backseat of the Malibu, meanwhile, sat the 15-year-old with two cases of beer. The Safeway employee was escorted to the scene where he positively identified the teen as the one who had struggled with him and threatened bodily harm.
The young suspect denied any involvement in the alleged crime, which prompted a police officer to show him a photo from the security camera showing him exiting the store with two cases of beer in his arms.
Confronted with this evidence, the suspect, suggested, “F*** you.”
Questioned further about his threats to the store employee, the indignant youngster explained, “I only said, ‘I’ll beat the f*** out of you.’”
Further investigation revealed the would-be thief was on probation and wearing a GPS ankle monitor.
The three master criminals – the 23-year-old driver from Boyes Hot Springs, the 21-year old passenger from Agua Caliente and the 15-year-old mastermind from Sonoma – were charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and robbery.
The two adults were booked into the Sonoma County jail and the juvenile was taken to juvenile hall.
Wednesday, July 18:
7:02 p.m. – Never annoy a police dog.
A canine police unit was assisting with an investigation at Jamie Lee Lane near Polly Lane in the Springs, when officers heard agitated barking from the back of the canine unit and the sound of someone banging on the vehicle where the dog was confined.
When officers responded to the noise they found a 29-year-old El Verano man yelling at the dog, “Shut the f*** up.”
Police approached the man and detained him, while discovering he smelled strongly of alcohol. A search of his person produced a piece of plastic bag containing .04 grams of cocaine. Police charged Paul Anthony Garcia with felony possession of cocaine, misdemeanor annoying of a police dog and misdemeanor being drunk in public. He was booked into the county jail.
Saturday, Aug. 4:
4 a.m. – The case of the shape-shifting stranger
After responding four times in one night – the last time at 4 a.m. – to a report from a resident of Fryer Creek Drive that a suspicious man was sleeping on his lawn, Sonoma police conducted a more thorough questioning of the reporting party.
The alleged victim of the nocturnal trespass said that a strange man had been curled up on the grass at one side of his front door. The resident explained that when he turned his head away for a moment, and then looked back, the man had somehow disappeared. Then, after looking away and back a second time, the man would mysteriously reappear. This happened numerous times, he explained to police, who had begun to notice a strong chemical odor emanating from the alleged victim. They also noticed, upon close examination, that the man’s pupils were heavily dilated.
Those observations led officers to ask if, by chance, the man had been smoking methamphetamine.
As a matter of fact, the man responded, he had been smoking meth earlier in the evening.
Finding no evidence of a shape-shifting stranger about the resident’s home, police concluded he was hallucinating and charged the 40-year-old Sonoma man with being under the influence of a controlled substance and booked him into the Sonoma County jail.
Friday, Sept. 14
9:20 p.m. – Can this marriage be saved?
That question has been a staple feature of the Ladies Home Journal for decades, a magazine probably not read by a San Mateo couple who had a rather public marriage test at the Lodge at Sonoma, involving a small dog, a hot tub, a missing bikini top, quite a lot of alcohol and, allegedly, some mutual punches to the face.
Sonoma police were called to investigate a case of domestic battery and arrived to find a very intoxicated man lying on the grass with a hotel security guard standing over him.
The man’s wife was taking refuge in a nearby room, but not a room the two had rented.
Questioned about what happened, the 33-year-old wife told police she and her husband were having drinks at the bar when she decided to go to the facility’s outdoor hot tub while her husband stayed behind.
She said that when she got into the hot tub she decided to take the top of her bathing suit off and had done so when her husband arrived, saw her topless, became enraged, grabbed her by the hair, pulled her out of the water and punched her two or three times in the face.
Police said the woman had a bloody lip and was also quite drunk.
When officers questioned the husband, he explained he had been drinking at the bar with his wife when she got up and ran off. He said his wife had once attempted suicide so, out of concern, he followed her to a room – again, not their own – into which she had locked herself. Fearing that she might be at risk, the man explained, he proceeded to kick the door in.
At that point, the husband reported, his wife yelled at him to “get the f*** out of here,” and hit him in the face. He then hit her, he said, and walked away.
But there was at least one more version of the story, because there was a witness in the hot tub when the woman arrived with – the witness said – a small dog in tow.
The witness, a woman, reported that the wife started to put her dog in the hot tub but that she, the witness, told her not to. The wife then took her swimming suit top off, whereupon the witness insisted, “Put your clothes back on.”
In response, the wife allegedly pulled the witness’s hair.
At that point, said the witness, the husband arrived, told his wife to put her clothes on, the wife refused, the husband pulled her out of the tub and hit her.
Where the room figured into the drama, whose room it was and how the wife gained entry remained unclear. Because the woman had a bloody lip – and thereby a visible injury – the 47-year-old husband was necessarily charged with felony domestic assault and, because he was on probation for an earlier DUI conviction, he was charged with a probation violation and was booked into the county jail.
But the wife did not require medical treatment and the husband’s felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, so perhaps there was still hope for a happy marriage.
Friday, Sept. 21:
10 a.m. – That’s soo cool, Dude. No one will ever notice.
Two 17-year-old high school seniors decided to share some tequila in woodshop class by concealing it in a bottle of Arrowhead drinking water. Their clever deception unraveled when one of the two consumed enough to be noticeably drunk.
The boys were detained, a breath test was administered, and one of them registered a blood alcohol level of .087. His father arrived and indignantly refused to let his son sign the citation, refusing as well to sign it himself. He insisted instead that his son be transported to Sonoma Valley Hospital for evaluation. Police complied, the son still had a sizeable BAC, but, according to the police report, the father’s refusal to allow signing of the citation precluded release of the son to this father.
He was therefore necessarily booked into juvenile hall for being under-aged and intoxicated in public.
The youth’s 17-year-old accomplice was charged with violation of Sonoma’s social host ordinance for making the tequila available, although his breath test indicated he had consumed little or none of the booze.
Sunday, Dec. 23:
4:55 p.m. – One bike, one shotgun, seven counts
There are times when a crime, or a series of crimes, crosses so far over the threshold of common sense that it falls into the one-word category suggesting a blind alley in the process of evolution. The word, of course, is “Darwin.”
In this case it involved a bicyclist who failed to obey a stop sign at Fifth Street West and Andrieux while in view of a Sonoma police officer.
The officer made a routine traffic stop and might have simply issued a warning but for the fact that the man riding the bicycle had a long narrow object wrapped in a garbage bag and taped to his handlebars.
Asked what was in the bag, the man explained it was a shotgun, and that immediately changed the equation. The officer had the rider dismount and conducted a pat-down search that yielded four Lorazepam pills, a meth pipe and a small amount of methamphetamine.
Compounding the legal consequences for the cyclist was the fact that he was a convicted felon and there was a bench warrant out for his arrest.
Convicted felons are generally not allowed to own firearms. But the cyclist demurred, explaining that the 12-guage, pump-action Mossberg shotgun belonged to his girlfriend’s father and he was simply taking it to be cleaned.
The officer promptly contacted the girlfriend, who said the gun was not her father’s and, furthermore, she reportedly claimed, her boyfriend had stolen it from a barn at the Sangiacomo Family Vineyards.
Police were thus faced with the following circumstances:
• A convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
• A felon convicted of a drug charge in possession of a firearm.
• A person in possession of stolen property (the shotgun).
• A person wanted on a bench warrant.
• A person in felony possession of a controlled substance.
• A person in possession of a narcotic controlled substance.
• A person in possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.
Thirty-eight year-old David Yount did not provide police with a plausible explanation as to why he was riding his bike with the shotgun taped to it, but they suspect he was planning to sell it.
He was charged with the seven offenses listed above and was booked into the Sonoma County jail.