YEAR IN REVIEW, Part 1: Of cops and crime – Sonoma West

On Saturday, April 21, a fight broke out in a parking lot near West Hills Circle, off Bodega Bay Avenue, in Sebastopol. Moments later Cory Alan Vaughn, 19, of Sebastopol was pronounced dead at the scene after sustaining significant stab wounds to the chest.

The tragedy shocked a town that had not seen a homicide since 1998, other than a fatal officer-involved shooting in 2011. A manhunt headed by Sonoma County Sheriff’s officers followed the grisly altercation and ultimately led to the arrest of murder suspect, Anthony William Ibach, 19, of Sebastopol.

Witnesses saw Ibach flee the scene of the crime in a burgundy BMW sedan. During the search for Ibach, a sheriff’s department helicopter circled over the crowd of several thousand people who were watching the end of the Apple Blossom parade and moving on to the annual festival at Ives Park.

The Sheriff’s Office sent a wanted poster to other local law enforcement agencies, and Ibach was spotted in San Rafael and detained by San Rafael police. Ibach originally gave a false name, but his identity was later confirmed, according to reports.

Vaughn was attending a get together with friends on that Saturday when, according to witnesses, Ibach showed up and asked for Vaughn to come outside to talk. Vaughn then left the party and met with Ibach, which ultimately resulted in the fight.

During the fight, witnesses reported that Ibach pulled out a cutting instrument and hit Vaughn several times with it. One deep slashing wound was delivered to Vaughn’s upper chest, which ended the fight.

According to court records, Ibach was charged with Vaughn’s murder and is awaiting a jury trial scheduled for May 10.

Two others were charged with accessory in the slaying Joshua Cassidy, 22, and Shyzaha Thorpe, 21, were arrested for aiding Ibach. The pair drove Ibach in Thorpe’s vehicle to a friend’s house in San Rafael and relocated Ibach’s car to Santa Rosa after the stabbing occurred. Both men pleaded to a misdemeanor accessory count.

Sharon Vaughn, the victim’s mother, said she has attended all the court dates and plans to attend the trial.

“Cory’s story is still touching peoples’ lives,” she said.

Not all heroes wear capes; some just drink coffee

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Loundagin

HERO — Sean Loundagin stopped an assault on a local barista and held the suspect down until the police arrived.

July 6 turned out to be a life-changing day for a barista and a local patron at a coffee shop in Forestville. Sean Loundagin, a local resident and regular at Sunshine Roasters Espresso Bar on Front Street, described the incident as “stepping into a spider web of evil.”

When Loundagin opened the coffee shop door just after 5 p.m. on that Friday afternoon, he said he immediately knew there was something wrong when he saw a man holding a weapon and hovering over a female barista.

Loundagin said the suspect, later identified as Sean Michael Seeman, a 26-year-old transient and parolee, had “crazy eyes.” There were coffee beans spilled on the floor, and it appeared there had been a struggle.

“He was standing over her, and she was on the ground,” Loundagin said. “His left hand was on her, and his other was cocked back with what looked like a fence staple.”

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Sean_Michael_Seeman.jpeg

Sean Michael Seeman, 26, has been charged assault with a deadly weapon, threats, false imprisonment, assault, battery and a parole violation after attacking a barista at a Forestville coffee shop.

Loundagin said it was at that time that he felt a sense of focus. There was a brief dialogue before the suspect hurled the sharp object he was holding at Loundagin, just missing contact. Loundagin said he heard the barista screaming his name and pleading for him to help.

“I will hear that for the rest of my life,” he said.

As he approached the suspect, Loundagin picked up a milk crate and “slammed him right in the face,” knocking him away from the barista and allowing space for her to escape out of the suspect’s restraint.

A struggle then ensued, and Loundagin was able to wrestle Seeman down to the ground and hold him until the deputies arrived just minutes later.

The barista told sheriff deputies that the incident began when Seeman, who she did not recognize, first entered the café two hours earlier. She said he made her nervous as he watched her while drinking his coffee. Seeman asked the barista to watch his belongings as he walked out of the store, then quickly rushed back into the store, according to reports.

A Sonoma County Sheriff’s public information officer said Seeman backed the victim into a corner and pushed her against the bathroom door while holding a sharp, small piece of thin scrap metal to her neck, attempting to force her inside.

Sunshine Roasters owner Mike Doherty said Loundagin acted heroically. He added that the barista, whose name has not been released, also reacted with great bravery to the attack.

“She fought him off and was able to buy enough time,” he said.

Loundagin is a physical trainer and also works at REACH School in Sebastopol.

Seeman has a past history of assault and narcotics and was determined by deputies to be on county parole. According to court records, Seeman faces several felony charges, including attempted kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to commit rape. His jury trial is set for Jan. 25.

There’s a new sheriff in town

On June 5, Sonoma County residents voted in the first contested sheriff’s race since 1990. When the results were in, it was clear that Mark Essick was the winner, gaining 57 percent of the popular vote and defeating challengers John Mutz and Ernesto Olivares.

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Mark Essick

Mark Essick

On Jan. 7, 2019, Essick, a Cloverdale resident, will step into one of the most significant roles any elected official can take on in Sonoma County. The Sheriff’s Office’s operating budget of $180 million accounts for almost half the county’s yearly budget. Essick will also direct a staff of more than 650 employees.

Essick has served as a captain in the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and has been a lifelong resident of the North Bay, starting his law enforcement career as correctional officer and working his way up through the ranks.

With 24 years of service at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Essick said he was confident he was more qualified for the job than the other candidates. His message to voters throughout the campaign was getting “back to the basics: ensuring public safety above all else, being fair and accountable and building partnerships to better engage with the community we serve.”

The organizations backing Essick’s race financially included the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs Association, the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California-Northern Chapter, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Alliance.

Current Sheriff Rob Giordano also endorsed Essick to take over the role.

The county board of supervisors appointed Giordano in August 2017 following the retirement of former sheriff Steve Freitas. Giordano said from the beginning of his appointment that he did not intend to run for the position. During his time as sheriff, Giordano received recognition for his tireless efforts during the October firestorms that left parts of the county devastated.

Honey oil labs turn into a sticky trend

In the last several years, a dangerous trend has been on the rise throughout California cities, driven by cannabis users’ quest for a higher high.

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BUTANE HONEY OIL LAB – Sheriff’s deputies discovered a honey oil lab in an outbuilding in the 5200 block of Wendell Lane in the Hessel area on Wednesday. Creating honey oil or “hash oil” by using butane is a dangerous rising trend. 

Honey oil labs have been popping up, literally, on law enforcement radars, and west county is no exception.

In June, two men suffering from third-degree burns showed up at the local Sebastopol hospital. Staff became suspicious when the men who drove themselves claimed the burns were from a “barbecue accident.”

The two men were transferred to other facilities due to the severity of their burns; one was airlifted to San Francisco. Sonoma County Sheriff’s officers were called to investigate and learned barbecue was not involved.

Sheriff’s deputies went to the house where the alleged accident took place, located in the 5200 block of Wendell Lane in the Hessel area, south of Sebastopol and west of Highway 116.

Deputies did a security sweep of the house and backyard but found no signs of a barbecue. However they did find a butane honey oil lab in one of the outbuildings. 

The building’s interior was damaged, and there was a melted garbage can of marijuana outside the building. Evidence suggested someone had recently hosed down the building with water.

Honey oil, also known as “hash oil” or “wax,” is a substance containing high levels of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the active ingredient of cannabis. Honey oil is created by using butane to extract THC from cannabis.

The result is a sticky amber liquid, which solidifies into a potent dose of THC. The popularity of “dabbing” has caused an increase in honey oil production. Dabbing takes place when a cannabis concentrate, like honey oil, is vaporized and then inhaled.

The explosive trend of butane honey oil labs does not seem to be slowing down.

Boom!

The man charged with tossing an explosive device under a sheriff’s patrol car in Guerneville this summer was sentenced to three years probation in December and given nearly a year in jail.

Tristan Proto, 22, pleaded no contest to the charge that he exploded the M-80 (a large firecracker) under a sheriff’s car parked in front of the Guerneville Safeway store.

Proto was apprehended by an off-duty policeman in the vicinity of the explosion that shook downtown Guerneville just before noon on Aug. 3.

Though this was the only actual explosion in Guerneville, the threat of pipebombs hung over the town all summer. Sheriff’s deputies from the Guerneville substation evacuated the Monte Rio public beach on July 7 after a pipe bomb was found under the Monte Rio Bridge.

In May, deputies arrested Vincent O’Sullivan, 55, a Guerneville transient, after he allegedly stole two gay pride flags and threatened to set off pipe bombs in town.

O’Sullivan told a gay employee at the Guerneville Safeway that he planned to “blow you up, you m***********g faggot,” according to the criminal complaint. O’Sullivan also said he had pipe bombs intended to go off at the Guerneville sheriff’s substation and planned to use bombs against “all the m***********g faggots” in the Guerneville area, according to court testimony.

No pipe bombs were ever found in his possession, however, and it is unclear whether he knew how to make them. The case has lagged on, with O’Sullivan appearing in the courtroom 23 times in advance of his trial, which was scheduled for last month but canceled after O’Sullivan’s attorney said he needed more time to prepare. He said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case.