The Sonoma 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 said.
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.
Cogbill 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.
“It's 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, Cogbill said.
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 three.
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.
In the 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 Coddingtown.
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 found.