Crime

Arrested for alleged public intoxication at bar, he says deputy used excessive force

A man who wound up on the floor of a Madera County bar and restaurant with serious injuries during a February incident feels a sheriff’s deputy overreacted, and worries that the arrest may cost him his job.

Jason De La Cruz will answer to charges of felony and misdemeanor resisting arrest and public intoxication during a court hearing Tuesday in Madera. Kevin Little, an attorney for De La Cruz, said his client lost two teeth and suffered a bloody nose in the incident at the Buckhorn Saloon & Restaurant in North Fork with deputies from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. The encounter was captured on the watering hole’s video system.

Kayla Serratto, a spokeswoman for the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, acknowledged that the department has received a citizen complaint about the incident, but because the case involves an active investigation, “we are unable to provide additional comment at this time.”

Little said the whole incident grew out of a “kind of silly” misunderstanding that the deputy blew out of proportion. Little said it began when a woman who was staying at a neighboring Airbnb decided to visit the Buckhorn, where she struck up a conversation with others at the bar. Her friends at the Airbnb became worried when she did not return to the lodging, and called authorities.

Little alleges that when the deputies found the woman, they began questioning her instead of simply telling her that her friends were concerned for her whereabouts.

That’s when, according to Little, De La Cruz saw the deputies and the woman on the Buckhorn patio. From a distance of several dozen feet, he reportedly told the deputies to “leave her alone.”

That apparently didn’t sit well with one of the deputies, and he went into the bar after speaking with the woman. Little maintains that the deputy said, “Oh, so this is your town, not mine,” and that De La Cruz was yanked of his bar stool.

The video “shows no illegal action” by De La Cruz, Little said.

The attorney added that De La Cruz works for a federal agency — which Little declined to identify — and that his client is “looking at losing his job. It’s a very stressful time for him.”

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