Year in Review: Crime

Compiled by Camille Escovedo, with reporting by Laura Hagar Rush, Camille Escovedo and Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, SoCoNews, December 29, 2021

police car

A Sebastopol police car sits outside of West County High School during a lockdown on Sept. 9, 2021. Photo Camille Escovedo

Western Sonoma County has experienced a range of crime in one year’s time, from drunk driving and robbery to the arrest of former Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob on suspicion of five felony charges, school threats and a costly fraudulent wire transfer.

On April 10, Sebastopol Police arrested Jacob on suspicion of five felony charges of child sexual assault that rose to 11 charges within days. He was booked into the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility without bail that day, later to be set at $620,000.

SoCoNews reported that police received a tip on March 30 about sexual assaults that may have taken place in Sebastopol from December 2019 to March 2021 that led to Jacob.

Later in April, he was granted a “Level 3” pretrial release, requiring a GPS-monitoring device, zero contact with minors and compliance with warrantless searches and seizures, including all electronic devices and providing passwords as directed by law enforcement.

On May 6, Jacob plead not guilty to the 11 felonies related to child sexual assault during a hearing at the Sonoma Superior Court, including the allegation of sexual penetration with a child under 16 years-old, SoCoNews reported.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office deployed its helicopter Henry-1 to help deputies chase a motorcyclist from west Santa Rosa through west county to Graton on the first night of May. The suspect was arrested in Graton on charges including “outstanding warrants, violation of probation, possession of narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia, as well as evading arrest.”

A suspected drunk driver struck two bicyclists on High School Road in unincorporated Sebastopol in mid-May, majorly injuring everyone involved. One of the bicyclists died later that month, likely at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer David deRutte.

The suspect was found to be under the influence of alcohol, arrested for a felony DUI at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

In July, the Sebastopol City Council reported that two unrelated cyber breaches compromised the city, one shutting down SPD’s computer system and another carrying off $1.2 million from Sebastopol’s reserves. A fraudulent email request and wire transfer heisted the money from the city’s reserve account held by the County of Sonoma.

City Manager and Attorney Larry McLaughlin stated he was unable to discuss the city’s plans to respond because the investigations were ongoing, but “to our knowledge, there is no leaked information or threat of same.”

Sebastopol Police Chief Kevin Kilgore confirmed on July 30 that the computer system had been mostly restored since the July 11 compromise that left dispatchers logging calls on paper instead of their computer-aided dispatching system.

SoCoNews reported that the recovered computers would return to use for SPD’s report-writing system, the dispatching system and various law enforcement database systems. The investigation would continue as to how the system was breached to begin with, Kilgore said.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin was due to provide an update on the $1.2 million reserves theft at the Dec. 7 city council meeting, but the meeting ran long, so his report is to take place at a later date.

When September arrived, West County High School (WCHS) staff identified a shooting threat posted to Instagram Monday evening, Sept. 6 and reported it to city police, who opened an investigation. Kilgore found that while the threat was probably meant for West County High, it wasn’t a credible one.

“The post was very general and did not specify a time, place or school,” said Superintendent Toni Beal over email at the time. “The posting suggested that spreading this information could allow students to get ‘a day off’ of school.” Parents were informed early the next morning but classes continued under increased police presence on campus.

Mere days later, a rumor that a student had a gun on campus led to a lockdown at WCHS the morning of Sept. 9. No one reported witnessing an armed student, however, and no weapon was seen nor found, Sebastopol Police Chief Kevin Kilgore said. He said police reached the student named in the rumor “without incident,” who agreed to a search of his belongings that came up with no weapon.

On September 8, authorities arrested a suspected arsonist in connection to the Aug. 22 fire in downtown Guerneville that started in the vacant Flavors Unlimited ice cream shop. As SoCoNews covered in August, the fire consumed the former ice cream shop, the former print shop next door, and significantly damaged the Gypsy Sisters clothing store.

The suspect was booked into the county jail that morning in September with bail set for $500,000 and the potential to be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

October was another rough month for the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) fearing violent crime. On October 26, the Sebastopol Police Department (SPD) received reports of a shooting in the Safeway parking lot.

The single victim suffered a gunshot to the leg and the suspect fled in a sedan driven by another individual. The incident led WCHS to briefly lock down, reopening within 10 minutes, Kilgore said. Less than two weeks later, the suspect was arrested in Nevada by the United States Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

At the end of October, WSCUHSD received another threat over social media, against Laguna High School. Classes were canceled at both Laguna High and WCHS the next day, Oct. 29, though police investigation did not find the threat to be credible this time, either. The investigation found the same social media post spread in Georgia, Florida and elsewhere in California and that the person who wrote it was arrested in Jupiter, Florida.

In November, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office announced detectives had arrested two west county men for robbing the Bank of the West in Forestville. The press release stated one man passed the teller a note demanding the money while the second man acted as a lookout Nov. 12 at the bank.

They were both booked into the Sonoma County Jail for felonies of conspiracy, robbery and burglary, and at least one man posted his $50,000 bail and left custody, SoCoNews covered. The Sheriff’s Office did not say how much money the men stole from the bank, if any, nor what funds may have been recovered by now.

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