Machete Man

by Bruce McEwen, August 24, 2016

Sheriff’s Press Release, August 2, 2016 —On 07-30-2016 at approximately 9:08 P.M. Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a possible fight in progress in the 200 block of Blue Bonnet Drive in Ukiah. When Deputies arrived they contacted a 46 year-old male who reported he had been physically assaulted by a subject named Ricardo Garcia, 21, of Ukiah. Deputies learned Garcia had taken a large rock and thrown the rock at the 46 year-old male, hitting him in the head. The 46 year-old male was complaining of pain to the front area of his head. During their investigation a Sheriff's Sergeant contacted Garcia at his residence. Garcia, armed with a 25-inch machete, came at the Sergeant while pulling the machete from its sheath. The Sheriff's Sergeant was able to physically gain control of the machete and Garcia without further violence. Garcia was placed under arrest for Felony Assault of a Peace Officer. Once the investigation was completed Garcia was also placed under arrest for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in regards to the original reported physical assault of the 46 year-old male. Garcia was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be booked and held in lieu of $30,000 bail.

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Garcia

Garcia

Ricardo Garcia, rock thrower and slow-draw machete man, is lucky to be alive — that’s the consensus law enforcement opinion. Garcia had charged a patrol sergeant, Darren Brewster, with a machete.

Lots of places Garcia would have been stopped with a bullet. Brewster stopped Garcia with a body slam.

This is not the first time Sgt. Brewster had had a close call. He was fired on a few years ago as he chased a couple of Ukiah desperadoes — Walter Miller and Christopher Skaggs — up the Boonville-Ukiah Road. They’d fled a traffic stop at the South end of Ukiah and, with Ukiah gun moll Tracy Cox squealing in the back seat, Miller cranked off a veritable fusillade at the pursuing Brewster, plugging the radiator of Brewster’s vehicle but narrowly missing Brewster.

Ricardo Garcia is doubly lucky he didn’t end up with murder charges for the crime Sgt. Brewster had come to investigate — hitting Miguel Ceja in the head with a rock the size of a tennis ball that Garcia had thrown at Ceja with malicious intent.

Ceja had been peacefully drinking beer with his brother Mario Ceja about 9pm the evening of July 31st when Ricardo Garcia came through a hole in the fence at the property on Bluebonnet Drive in Ukiah. Garcia wanted to join the party. He was not welcome. Told to leave, Garcia threw the rock and struck Miguel Ceja hard in the head with it.

Deputy DA Barry Shapiro called Deputy Samuel Logan to the stand. Logan provided these details over the objections of Garcia’s lawyer, Eric Rennert of the Office of the Public Defender. Mr. Rennert objected on the grounds that Miguel did not speak English and Deputy Logan did not speak Spanish.

Judge Ann Moorman sustained these objections and in the end struck from the record all the testimony thus obtained.

Rennert: “Who did you say saw the defendant across the fence after the rock was thrown?”

Logan: “Both the Cejas, Miguel and Mario.”

Rennert: “Did you put that in your report?”

Logan: “I did.”

Rennert: “Can you direct me to where?”

Logan: (Having looked) “I may have said Miguel’s statement was consistent with Mario’s.”

Rennert: “They said they saw Mr. Garcia over the fence and then Miguel was hit with the rock…?”

Logan: “Yes.”

Rennert: “So no one saw him throw it?”

Logan: “They did; they said they did.”

Rennert: “Did you put that in your report?”

Logan: “I think I did.”

Rennert: “Perhaps you could refresh your memory by looking, and show me where it is.”

Logan: (Having looked and not found it) “It says here that it was determined that Garcia threw the rock.”

Rennert: “Who determined?”

Logan: “Umm… It was being translated to me from Spanish to English and, so…”

Rennert: “Translated by who?”

Logan: “By Mr. Ceja’s wife.”

Shapiro: “Miguel’s wife?”

Logan: “Yes.”

Rennert’s canny interrogation became an obstacle to anything Logan had to say about what Miguel’s wife translated. This forced the prosecution into retreat. It took a few minutes for Shapiro to regroup and make another, ahem, assault on Rennert’s defense.

Shapiro: “Did she appear to be fluent in both languages?”

Logan: “She did.”

Rennert: “Objection, lack of foundation.”

Moorman: “Sustained.”

Shapiro: “Deputy Logan, do you speak any Spanish?”

Logan: “A small amount.”

Shapiro: “Did the wife appear to speak fluent Spanish?”

Logan: “She did.”

Rennert: “How would he know whether it was fluent or not? Objection.”

Shapiro: “Did the wife appear to give an accurate translation?”

Logan: “She did.”

(Like something can be lost in translation here? A psycho throwing a rock is hardly the U.N. arranging a cease fire at Yalu.)

Rennert: “Again, I object.

Moorman: “Sustained.”

Shapiro: “___________!”

Rennert: “Deputy Logan, you know a small amount of Spanish?”

Logan: “Correct.”

Rennert: “So you don’t know, since you are not fluent yourself, whether the wife was making an accurate translation or not, do you?”

Logan: “That’s correct.”

Rennert: “Now, you put in your report that the rock was later ‘determined’ to have been thrown by Mr. Garcia, and what I want to know is, how was it determined?”

Logan: “That’s how I was taking it, by what they were telling me.”

Rennert: “So they didn’t say they saw him throw the rock, did they?”

Logan: “No! They said they saw him throw the rock.”

Rennert: “But didn’t you say on direct they only saw him over the fence when the rock was thrown?”

Logan: “That’s correct.”

Rennert: “So it’s possible they just assumed he threw it?”

Logan: “Correct.”

Rennert: “About how big was the rock?”

Logan: “Mario said it was about the size of a tennis ball.”

Rennert: “And you saw no injuries to his head?”

Logan: “That’s correct.”

Rennert: “Did you find the rock?”

Logan: “No.”

Rennert: “Nothing further.”

It doesn’t take a physicist to determine that a mass of stone the size of a tennis ball would have to be traveling at least 35 mph to keep it airborne for any distance greater than a yard or two, and if it were thrown in anger as this one reputedly was, closer to 75 mph, and that such a combination of mass and velocity would easily fracture a human skull — resulting in the glaring incongruity that Miguel was not even unconscious, at the very least, and standing around talking calmly through his wife to Deputy Logan.

Shapiro: “You spoke with Miguel and he told you, through the translator, his wife, that the defendant threw the rock?”

Logan: “Correct.”

Moorman: “How far in advance of your arrival did this incident occur?”

Logan: “Maybe five minutes.”

Rennert: “Isn’t it true they’d been drinking?”

Logan: “I don’t know.”

Rennert: “But weren’t there a lot of beer cans present?”

Logan: “That’s correct.”

Rennert: “Isn’t it also true that Miguel has given false information to law enforcement on numerous occasions?”

Logan: “I don’t know anything about that…”

Rennert has been defending Ukiah’s indigent criminal class for as long as Flynn Washburne has been in the pen; as a result Rennert knows the players intimately, shall we say, and it seems reasonable that he was aware of Miguel Ceja’s history of bearing false witness to law enforcement, whether a rookie attorney like Logan was or not.

Shapiro, still ignoring the glaring incongruity, called Deputy Brewster.

Brewster, with 26 years in uniform, is no rookie. He said the address on Bluebonnet Drive he was dispatched to because of a fight involving numerous subjects, was a frequent party area.

“When I arrived everybody said they were okay except Miguel Ceja who said Ricardo Garcia had hit him on the head with a rock, so I started looking around for Mr. Garcia.”

Shapiro: “Did you find him?”

Brewster: “I did. He and his brother, Jesus, were at 2211 North State Street in the back of a laundry room in a trailer park where there is a walkway — it’s tight quarters, overgrown with vegetation — and he was inside the archway of a little ten-by-ten building.”

Shapiro: “Were you familiar with Mr. Garcia?”

Brewster: “I was not.”

Shapiro: “Had you at least been provided with a description of him?

Brewster: “That I was.”

Shapiro: “Find anyone meeting that description?”

Brewster: “I did, yes, and when I called his name he turned and looked at me.”

Shapiro: “Do you see him in court today?”

Brewster: “That’s him at defense table in the orange jumpsuit.”

Shapiro: “What did you do?”

Brewster: “He was holding something and I told him to drop it.”

Shapiro: “And did he?”

Brewster: “No. When I stepped through the archway, he came at me with a machete in his left hand, and he was pulling it out of the sheath with his right hand — he didn’t get it all the way out, though.”

Shapiro: “Did you draw your weapon?”

Brewster: “No. I had to make a split-second decision whether to use my firearm or not and, well, he was too close, and coming at me.”

Shapiro: “How close was he to you?”

Brewster: “About a foot and a half away, closing in.”

Shapiro: “What did you do?”

Brewster: “I charged him and slammed him against the wall.”

Shapiro: “Why did you do that?”

Brewster: “So he wouldn’t cut me with the machete.”

Shapiro: “Did you arrest him?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Shapiro: “Why?”

Brewster: “For the rock incident, the 245.”

Shapiro: “Nothing further.”

Rennert for the defense: “Did you speak with Miguel Ceja?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Rennert: “In Spanish or English?”

Brewster: “In English.”

Rennert: “How did you accomplish that?”

Brewster: “Through his wife.”

Rennert: “Was it night-time?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Rennert: “Dark out?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Rennert: “And you say there was lots of vegetation?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Rennert: “The area you were in was something like an arbor?”

Brewster: “Yes, like an arbor.”

Rennert: “Had you seen Mr. Garcia before?”

Brewster: “Not that I know of.”

Rennert: “Did he say anything to you?”

Brewster: “No.”

Rennert: “Didn’t he tell you he was trying to undo the machete from his belt?”

Shapiro: “Objection, hearsay.”

Moorman: “Sustained.”

Rennert: “You began to draw your firearm — did you point it at him”

Brewster: “No, I didn’t have time, so I dropped it back in the holster and charged.”

Rennert: “He wasn’t running at you, was he?”

Brewster: “Yes, he was. He was running right at me.”

Rennert: “Did you have your radio camera on?”

Brewster: “We don’t have those.”

Rennert: “What about your radio?”

Brewster: “My radio?”

Rennert: “Yes. Was it on?”

Brewster: “It’s always on.”

Rennert: “Nothing further.”

Judge Moorman: “When you first went there you spoke to Miguel through his wife?”

Brewster: “Yes.”

Moorman: “What did he say?”

Brewster: “That they were drinking and Mr. Garcia came and wasn’t wanted; he left through a hole in the fence, then threw a rock and hit him in the head.”

Moorman: “I’m going to strike the testimony by Miguel given through his wife’s translation.”

Rennert: “It’s odd the rock wasn’t found…”

Shapiro: “I think the People have met their burden.”

Moorman: “I’m going to issue the holding order and the reason is Mario Ceja said essentially the same thing about the rock being thrown and then he saw the defendant on the other side of the fence -- and he didn’t need a translator. It’s circumstantial evidence, but it’s sufficient for a preliminary hearing. We’ll bring this back for arraignment on the information August 31st and I’m increasing the bail to $75,000. That’ll be the order.”

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