Taser used in Sonoma County court melee
By James Lanaras, Bay City News Service
January 25, 2007
SANTA ROSA (BCN) - A 44-year-old Cotati man was punched
by his own attorney and shot twice with a Taser stun gun Wednesday
during a melee that emptied a full Sonoma County courtroom after
he tried to remove a court bailiff's firearm from its holster.
The Sonoma County sheriff's office, whose deputies serve as court
bailiffs, said defendant Martin E. Hirtz, 44, turned on sheriff's
Deputy Eric Greenband and lunged for his weapon when the deputy
approached to place him into custody on Judge Lawrence Antolini's
The 5 foot 11 inch, 180-pound Hirtz was in Sonoma County Superior
Court for violating the terms of his probation. He previously
was convicted of assault on a police officer and resisting arrest,
sheriff's Capt. Dave Edmonds said. Hirtz's attorney, Deputy Public
Defender Jeff Mitchell, said
Hirtz's probation violation was alcohol-related.
Hirtz grabbed the deputy's holstered weapon with both hands and
made back-and-forth jerking motions, authorities reported. Deputy
Greenband was using both his hands to keep his weapon holstered
but was being forced by Hirtz to bend over backwards against a
short wall in the courtroom, Capt. Dave Edmonds said.
Deputy Will Connor tried to remove Hirtz's grip on the firearm
and deputies broadcast a radio call for help, Edmonds said.
Then attorneys joined the fray. Deputy District Attorney Robert
Waner and Mitchell, who has a black belt in Kempo Karate, participated
in restraining the defendant.
Mitchell said he punched Hirtz in the face several times while
Waner took hold of one of Hirtz's arms.
"I was watching and I thought it was under control. But
from the sound of the bailiff's voice it seemed to be getting
worse. He (Hirtz) had his hand on the gun and I heard it was unsnapped.
At that point I thought he was going to clear it (the gun),''
Mitchell said Hirtz and Waner then fell to the ground and Hirtz
never stopped struggling.
Edmonds said Deputy Conner struck Hirtz several times on his
arm and head to no avail.
Then Deputy Debbie Little, who came into the courtroom to assist,
shot Hirtz with two Taser darts, which had some effect on Hirtz,
Edmonds said. Little fired the Taser again and the second shock
temporarily disabled Hirtz who was then taken onto custody, Edmonds
Mitchell said the incident lasted two or three minutes. Hirtz
suffered head lacerations during the melee and was taken by ambulance
to Sutter Hospital for a medical evaluation, Edmonds said. He
was then booked into the Sonoma County jail for assault on a peace
officer and court staff, attempting to disarm a peace officer,
obstructing or resisting a peace officer in the performance of
his duties, probation violation and other charges, Edmonds said.
Mitchell suffered a bruised right hand and returned to work this
afternoon. Waner, who was seen in his bloodied white shirt after
the incident, went to the hospital for treatment but also returned
Greenband was treated for strains to his back and shoulder and
contusions. He was unable to return to work, Edmonds said.
Antolini's courtroom was closed this morning as a hazardous materials
team cleaned blood from the carpet and the scene was processed
"It's odd because it happens when you least expect it. It's
extremely unusual. The sheriff's deputies have always been good
with court security. I think it was handled as well as it could
be,'' Mitchell said.
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