A review was underway Thursday into whether a sheriff’s detective was following department policy when he used a “carotid-restraint” hold on a reckless driving suspect — an incident the man recorded on his cell phone.
The chain of events on the evening of May 4 began when San Diego Sheriff’s Detective Paul Ward spotted 25-year-old security guard Robert Branch allegedly driving his vehicle erratically and at a high rate of speed on Interstate 8 in La Mesa. Branch’s vehicle fishtailed and narrowly missed striking the detective’s car, according to a sheriff’s department statement.
However, Branch told 10News that Ward’s Ford Fusion was being used in an attempt to run him off the road.
Ward saw Branch’s car in slowed traffic and began to follow him as he exited at College Avenue, the sheriff’s department statement said. Both vehicles pulled into the driveway of a residence on Lambda Drive.
Ward identified himself and showed his badge to Branch, who was wearing a black tactical vest with “Security” across the front and an attached gun holster, and asked for his license and registration. The sheriff’s department statement alleged Branch claimed the lawman was not on duty and “became agitated, uncooperative and refused to comply with Detective Ward’s request.”
Branch told 10News he was defending himself and pushed the detective.
Sheriff’s officials said Ward attempted to check Branch for weapons, but he resisted. The detective told Branch he was being detained, but he started to walk away and pulled out his cell phone to record the encounter.
Ward could not see Branch’s hands as his back was turned, and then “applied the department-approved carotid-restraint” and told a passerby to call police, according to the statement. Branch lost consciousness for several seconds, but came to and attempted to flee, prompting Ward to again use the hold, although he did not lose consciousness the second time.
Branch’s video, which was made public Wednesday, shows the lawman with his arm around Branch’s neck. His attorney, Marc Kohnen, told U-T San Diego Branch he thought he was going to die.
The sheriff’s department said Ward spotted a canister of pepper spray in Branch’s hand and a struggle ensued. He later turned over the can, sat down and waited for police.
Branch was taken to a hospital to be evaluated before being booked into jail on suspicion of resisting an officer and reckless driving. His criminal case has since been referred to the district attorney’s office for review and evaluation.
The sheriff’s department has launched an investigation.
“Any time force is used by a sheriff’s deputy, the incident is reviewed to determine if department policy was followed,” the statement said. “This encompasses all elements of the situation, to include tactics.”
—City News Service
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: