COTATI (KPIX 5) — A Sonoma County man’s video that shows police officers kicking in a door and using a stun gun on him has gone viral and is raising questions about the constitutionality of police tactics.
James Wood, 33, said he had a loud argument with his wife last Friday, but what he did not know was that a neighbor had called 911.
The call, and a subsequent call by a police officer for backup, started a chain of events which led to Wood getting zapped by a stun gun several times while his wife, Jennifer, is heard screaming in the background.
When officers showed up at his door, Wood said four officers all drew their pistols, pointed them at the couple and a family friend and demanded to go inside without explaining why.
Raw Video Of Police Incident (Explicit Language)
“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.’”
Wood is heard on the video saying it is his constitutional right to refuse the officers entry.
Officers asked, “Why are you not coming out?”
Wood’s friend, James Helton responded, “Because we don’t live in a police state sir. Martial law has not been established in this country.”
“We had surrendered inside our house,” Wood said. “I was not going to surrender my door.”
James Wood is an Army veteran who arrived home to his wife and children in December, 2012 after a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.
“This was the thought running through my head while I was scolding them for pointing weapons at unarmed civilians: if you want to point guns at people and kick in doors, I could talk to a recruiter and you all would be shipped away right quick,” he said.
In the video, police officers are seen forcing entry into the home. After an officer grabs his wife’s arm, Wood is heard to yell, “You are assaulting her.”
An officer immediately fired his stun gun at Wood, hitting him five times.
In a press release, Cotati police said the officers’ actions were justified because it was a call for domestic violence, and as such, the officers could not leave without making sure everyone inside the apartment was safe.
“To do so would be a neglect of duty,” said the statement. “Due to the exigent circumstances, the officers were forced to kick the door open in order to enter the apartment. Constitutional law allows for officers to make entries under these types of circumstances without a warrant.”
Paul Henderson, a former prosecutor and KPIX 5 legal analyst, agreed the officers had the right to force entry into the home.
“In the case where you have a third party calling from outside of the house, the cops have to investigate,” said Henderson. “They’re not necessarily going to take or believe someone telling them from behind a locked door that everything is okay without doing an investigation.”
According to the police press release, Wood faces two charges: obstructing a peace officer and false imprisonment.
Jennifer Wood, James’ wife, showed KPIX 5 bruises on her arm and said an officer caused them. She was adamant that there was absolutely no domestic violence between her and her husband, just a loud disagreement about finances.
“The officer later tried to get me to say my husband abused me,” Jennifer Wood said. “But I told him, ‘the only one that hurt me was you.’”
The couple is angry that the situation escalated the way it did.
“If they had been polite and explained what was going on, we wouldn’t be here,” James Wood said.
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