ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - The Rohnert Park man who recorded a viral video of a police officer pulling a gun on him is speaking out about the encounter. Don McComas sat down with KTVU to share his story publicly for the first time. And 2 Investigates has exclusively obtained the police report of the incident, which is raising more concerns for McComas and his lawyer.
The moment that went viral
“To approach my house, to get out of your vehicle... there was no justification. And to pull your gun?” Don McComas said.
McComas is breaking his silence for the first time since the encounter with a Rohnert Park police officer in front of his home.
Last July he captured a confrontation with officer David Rodriguez on his cell phone camera, showing the officer unholster his gun. It went viral within days.
“I felt helpless,” McComas said.
“Was your heart pounding?” Investigative Reporter Ross Palombo asked.
“It was completely pounding.”
“Did you think he was going to shoot you?
“At that moment I did,” McComas said.
That moment began in his driveway on July 29. While hitching a boat to his SUV, McComas says something else sailed in. He first took a photo of an officer in his vehicle driving by and leaving. Then, McComas said, the officer did a second pass.
“And that’s when you became suspicious?” Palombo asked.
“Yes, why didn’t [he] leave, now [he’s] just staring at me...”
McComas says he then started capturing video on his smartphone. The video shows the officer gets out of his car and say, “Sir, take your hand out of your pocket.” At first, McComas refuses.
“You think it looks like you have a weapon in there?” Palombo asked.
“No,” McComas said. “I never expected him to say get your hand out of your pocket.”
According to the video, just eight seconds after he was asked, McComas did take his hand out and empty his pocket, placing its content on the hood of a car. One of his hands appears to be holding the camera, the other is seen in the video pointing at the officer.
“So, you could see both hands?” Palombo asked.
“Yeah,” McComas said.
“Does he drop the gun after you empty your pockets?”
“Never,” McComas said.
McComas says at one point the officer actually put both hands on the gun and raised it slightly.
"And, what did you think?” Palombo asked.
“That it’s end of story.”
"You thought you were going to get shot?”
“Yes,” McComas said.
“And killed?” Palombo asked.
“Yes... I never seen an officer shoot to wound,” McComas said.
The video ends without any shooting, but with the entire exchange caught on camera.
“Go ahead and have a nice day and put it on YouTube,” The officer is heard saying near the end of the video.
“I will, sir,” McComas said.
On YouTube, more than 480,000 people have watched the original clip Don McComas posted. More than 800,000 have seen another edited version of the clip.
“Other people have said that it’s a big deal what I caught, but it just seemed to me I was just catching what was happening,” McComas said.
The official police report
Three months after that encounter in a Rohnert Park driveway, 2 Investigates has exclusively obtained the police report filed by officer David Rodriguez outlining his version of events.
Rodriguez writes in his report that he was “... checking for parking violations...” when he saw “... the subject hiding behind a pick-up...” He says he then “... got out of [his] patrol car and asked what was going on and if he needed help...”
“The video shows that that was a lie,” McComas said.
“Did he ask you if you needed help?” Palombo said.
The video shows the officer pulling out his gun 11 seconds after leaving his patrol car. But according to the police report, Rodriguez doesn’t mention “... pulling [his] gun out of [his] holster...” until half-way through his narrative of the report. Then, he writes that he “... pointed it to the ground...”
“But, you believe he pointed it at you?” Palombo asked McComas.
“I believe he raised it to my waist or below.”
Before he left the scene, the officer writes in the report that he “... asked [McComas] if he needed help if he wanted to hurt himself...”
“Never did any word like that ever come out of his mouth... in any way, shape, or form,” McComas said.
“Is any part of this report accurate?” Palombo asked.
“In my opinion, no.”
“Some parts do appear to be accurate,” Palombo pressed.
“Vaguely. But, the things that he said... that is how it should have gone,” McComas said.
Silence from City Hall
After several attempts to contact Public Safety Director Brian Masterson were unsuccessful, Palombo caught up with the officer’s supervisor at a public city meeting. But Masterson would only tell KTVU “Now is not the time to have this discussion.”
“You give me a call, I’ll try to find time in my schedule to meet with you,” he said.
But the following day city spokesperson Don Schwartz called KTVU Fox 2 to say the chief would “... prefer not to respond... He will not be going on camera.”
McComas’ Attorney Dan Beck told 2 Investigates that he believes there’s “a cover-up.”
Beck also says he believes the entire incident was sparked by a separate domestic violence case involving McComas’ son Tyler.
“You guys have done enough to my family!” McComas is heard at one point telling the officer in the video.
“I don’t even know who you are,” Officer Rodriguez is heard replying.
Despite Rodriguez saying he does not know Don McComas, and despite Rodriguez not being directly involved with the son’s case, McComas still believes that there is still some connection.
“Is this a case of retaliation from the officer against Mr. McComas?“ Palombo asked Beck.
“It could very possibly be,” Beck says. “And it could be one that is condoned by his superiors.”
Officer Rodriguez and his superiors aren’t speaking about those allegations, and aren’t speaking about why Rodriguez is no longer on administrative leave.
2 Investigates has learned that Rodriguez has been back on the job since August, working as a firefighter.
“Why is the officer back at work?” Palombo asked Masterson at the public meeting.
“We’re not having this conversation,” was his response.
Palombo also asked Masterson’s boss, City Manager Darrin Jenkins, for answer.
“Do you think this is proper that this officer is back on the job while this investigation is still ongoing?” Palombo asked. Jenkins just walked away.
Jenkin’s boss, Mayor Amy Ahanotu, had little else to add.
“Why is he back at work?” Palombo asked.
“No comment at this time,” Mayor Amy Ahanotu said.
“You don’t have anything to say to the people of Rohnert Park?”
“No, no comment at this time,” Ahanotu said.
“He is now in the Fire Division back on the street,” McComas said.
“You think he’s dangerous?” Palombo asked.
“You think he could do this to someone else?”
As for what has been done to him, three months after he took the video McComas says he is still stunned, shaken and scared.
“Yeah,” McComas sobbed at one point, “I’m a different person since then… I can’t believe what they would write and what they did.”
Rohnert Park has since concluded its independent investigation into the actions of Officer David Rodriguez. The city says an independent agency has found the officer’s actions “reasonable.”
McComas’s attorney has now filed a claim with the city, claiming negligence, assault, and a violation of civil rights. They’re now seeking damages. The claim is the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city seeking damages.