Sonoma County has agreed to a $1.9 million civil rights lawsuit settlement with the family of a man who killed himself during a raid by the county’s sheriff’s office SWAT unit in 2014. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Feb. 27, 2015, by family members of Glenn Swindell, 39, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the May 17, 2014 incident at Swindell’s home in Larkfield-Wikiup.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano posted a video this afternoon on Facebook announcing the settlement. Giordano said the sheriff’s office responded to a domestic violence call four years ago that escalated to a barricaded-subject incident and a SWAT team response. “In this case, one of our employees did not follow proper procedures and we took corrective action immediately,” Giordano said. Giordano said that is why the county is settling the lawsuit. “If we’re wrong, we’re going to take the right steps to fix it,” Giordano said.
The sheriff’s office said at the time that Swindell and his wife Sarah had a physical altercation and Swindell restricted her and their children’s movements. The dialog between Swindell and sheriff’s deputies were discontinued and a SWAT unit responded to the scene, the sheriff’s office said. “Many attempts were made to establish a dialog with the suspect but were all to no avail. Several hours later, a search of the residence found the suspect had committed suicide,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement in May 2014.
At a news conference in San Francisco in February 2015, Sarah Swindell said she and the children argued on May 16, 2014 and Swindell took the children and locked her out of the house. Swindell said she called 911 for help but told the dispatcher no violence had occurred but she wanted to get the children out of the house. Glenn Swindell released the children when deputies arrived but he refused to leave the house because he feared law enforcement, Sarah Swindell said. The family’s lawsuit claimed sheriff’s deputies and their supervisors wrongfully and negligently declared Swindell a barricaded suspect and undertook a siege of his home.
Sarah Swindell said she urged the deputies to de-escalate, but she was handcuffed and told if she didn’t cooperate, they would take her children from her. The lawsuit alleged a SWAT unit of 50 people used military equipment to enter the home and a “full-scale militarized assault ensued.” Swindell family attorney Arnoldo Casillas said the SWAT unit pumped “canister, after canister, after canister after canister of tear gas into the attic.” Swindell, trapped in an attic gas chamber, was quickly disabled and in excruciating pain and shot himself, Casillas said. In 2015, Casillas said he expected a jury to find the SWAT response was an intentional killing.
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