Calif. sheriff under fire for tear gassing during Mexican independence day


The Associated Press

SANTA ROSA, California- A crowd of 150 revelers celebrating Mexican Independence Day in were tear-gassed by deputies in riot gear, sparking accusations that authorities overreacted in response to unrest at the event.

Sonoma County Sheriff Bill Cogbill defended the department's response, saying partygoers were given ample warning to disperse after allegedly throwing rocks and bottles at deputies.

"Underreaction is probably the worst thing you can do," Cogbill said. "The best thing you can do is overwhelm a situation like this before it gets out of hand. It looked like, from my perspective, we did what the public expects us to do."

But some critics said the response Friday was overkill considering just one person was arrested for public drunkenness. Seventeen deputies, eight Santa Rosa police officers, six California Highway Patrol officers and a helicopter responded to the scene.

"If there were issues that required them to come out with riot gear, it seems to me that they would have arrested a few people," said Laura Gonzalez, vice president of the Latino Democratic Club. "For one arrest, that seems really excessive."

Earlier this year, deputies clashed with revelers at a Cinco de Mayo celebration where more than 1,000 people crowded Roseland streets, some breaking windows and throwing rocks at deputies.

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