PUBLIC INFORMATION -- The refusal by Sonoma County's sheriff to release the name
of a deputy who shot and killed a man following a high-speed chase two
weeks ago is being challenged by the local ACLU, reports Randi Rossmann of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has formally
requested Sheriff Bill Cogbill release the name of the deputy, as well
as other deputies present at the shooting.
Albert Mike Leday, Jr.,
49, died June 1, after being shot while in front of Coddingtown Mall at
Guerneville Road and West Steele Lane after leading deputies on a
high-speed chase and crashing into a pole. The deputy who shot
him has not been identified because the deputy's safety could be in
jeopardy if his name were known to the public, sheriff's officials have
Cogbill Tuesday held to that argument, saying the department
still has ongoing information of a possible threat. He would not
release any other information regarding that threat.
Leday is an
ex-felon with an extensive record. Cogbill Tuesday said he has ties to
some gangs, but a gang connection alone did not warrant withholding the
deputy's name, he said.
Steve Fabian, member of the local ACLU
board, wrote to the sheriff on behalf of the agency asking for the
information within 10 days on the basis that information is public.
said he would meet with a county attorney Tuesday afternoon in light of
the ACLU's letter. But the sheriff said he still feels the information
is exempt from the public records act because of the possible danger.
much more complicated. We feel...there's an ongoing and real officer
safety issue. We're still looking into that, he said.If an
investigation determines the threat isn't real, he'll release the name,
Law enforcement agencies may be legally justified
in withholding a name right after a shooting if there's a "clear and
direct threat" to the person's safety, Terry Francke, general counsel
with Californians Aware, a nonprofit public records group, told The
Press Democrat last week. But Francke said there's no legal basis to
withhold that information indefinitely.
In prior cases involving
deputies shooting a suspect, the timing on when names of involved
officers have been released has varied.It took two months for
sheriff's officials in 2007 to release the name of three deputies who
shot and killed a man who wounded a deputy. Officials then said it had
taken that long to determine if there were credible threats against the
Cogbill said it's common now for an agency to take a couple
of days at least to determine if there is a threat to the officer
involved before letting the public know who fired a weapon.
Leday case, deputies were called to a Larkfield apartment by a woman
fearful of her ex-boyfriend. She told a dispatcher he's recently
assaulted her and had been armed then with a knife.When deputies
spotted the man in his car, he led them on a chase from Larkfield to
At the mall entrance, Leday drove into a light pole
and got out of his car. Sheriff's officials said he was seen reaching
for something behind his back and that he wouldn't follow commands to
comply with deputies.Deputies said they feared he had a weapon.
One deputy fired three times, hitting Leday once.
BadgedNo weapon was