Sonoma County Assistant District Attorney William Brockley said his office is waiting on those reports from the Santa Rosa Police Department to review for any criminal charges.
Ward’s family has filed a claim against the city. Their attorney, Izaak Schwaiger, said the most surprising thing about the coroner’s findings was simply how long it took to get them. He also said the fact that Santa Rosa police have put the criminal investigation on hold indicates they are not taking Ward’s homicide seriously.
“If this had been a civilian who caused this death, do you think they would be putting it on hold?” Schwaiger said. “They don't think a crime was committed.”
Despite the coroner’s determination of what caused Ward’s death, questions remain about the strange and tragic series of events that led up to his fatal encounter with deputies.
“One of the great mysteries in David's case is going to be why he ran from the police,” Schwaiger said. “We don't really know, but certainly, a mental health history, you know, is going to contribute to that.”
On Nov. 24, Ward reported that his car had been stolen and that he’d been pistol whipped by a man living as a caretaker on his property, according to the sheriff.
At some point, Ward recovered his car, but the authorities said he didn’t notify them. When an off-duty Santa Rosa detective reported seeing the vehicle early on the morning of Nov. 27, Sonoma County Deputy Jason Little responded, and tried to pull over the green Honda.
Ward initially stopped his car, but then drove off.
Little and two Sebastopol police officers chased Ward through Sonoma County backroads for about seven minutes. At one point police performed what’s called a PIT maneuver – colliding with the Honda – in an attempt to incapacitate Ward’s vehicle.
Video of the incident shows the chase stopping at a dead end in the community of Bloomfield, about five miles from where it began, and officers, including Deputy Charles Blount, yelling at Ward to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
Ward appears to be having difficulty opening the door, and video of the incident seems to indicate the door was damaged as a result of being struck by the police car during the chase.
"I can't believe this,” Ward says, rolling down his window. “I'm the injured party here ... Why are you fucking harassing me all the time?"
Blount reaches in through the car window and tries unsuccessfully to pull Ward out. Ward starts to cry out in pain, and Little says his legs are pinned under the steering wheel. Little and Ward can both be heard saying that Ward is biting them. Blount then grabs the 52 year old by the head and slams it against the door frame – first with a glancing blow, then a second time, producing a loud cracking sound. At the same time, Ward is hit by Little’s Taser.
Finally, police officers from Sebastopol get Ward out through the passenger side of the vehicle, place him on the ground and handcuff him. Ward stops breathing.
As more officers arrive on the scene, Deputy Nick Jax recognizes Ward as the carjacking victim.
"Then why did he run?" Little asks.
"I don't know why he ran," Jax responds. "He had no reason to run. I was out with him like two hours ago at his house."
"Oh well,” Blount says.
Blount has a history of dishonest testimony and improper use of a neck hold.
In 2015, he used a neck hold on a woman, and then lied about it in court. Schwaiger said the sheriff should have done something about Blount’s misconduct then.
Schwaiger said it’s been nearly six months since Ward died, and his family is still waiting for answers.
“David's life had value,” Schwaiger said. “It had value, and he was loved by his family and he loved them in return, and that's all gone now. And it's not something that should be ignored. It's not something that should be minimized.”