Legal documents released last week begin to illuminate the Santa Rosa Police Department’s investigation into the April 17 vandalism of a Derek Chauvin defense witness’s former home and a white marble statue in downtown Santa Rosa.
In doing so, the documents also shed light on the extent of the resources police have used to pursue suspects in the case, including relying on the cost of the vandalism to pursue felony charges, and using a confidential informant to receive search warrants in the case.
While the crime received large amounts of media attention due to its connection to a trial at the heart of the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, court documents indicate it is ultimately not a case for the history books.
Early on the morning of April 17, a group of individuals deposited a pig’s head on the porch of the former home of Barry Brodd, and splattered a considerable amount of pig’s blood outside it. Brodd, a retired SRPD officer who left the department in 2004, made national news days before when he took the stand to defend Chauvin, who was on trial for killing Floyd.
A short time after the vandalizing of Brodd’s former home, a large white marble hand sculpture in front of the Santa Rosa Plaza mall was also discovered covered in blood, an SRPD press release from the time states. Because both acts of vandalism involved pig’s blood and occurred the same day, police assume the crimes were related.
On Friday, July 16, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office charged five suspects with the crimes. More specifically, Kristen Aumoithe, Rowan Dalbey and Amber Lucas were charged with felony vandalism of the hand sculpture, while Colin Metcalfe and Christina Henry were charged with felony vandalism of the residence. All five also faced charges of felony conspiracy to commit a crime.
On the day of Brodd’s April testimony, SRPD’s chief released a statement distancing the department from Brodd’s statements in support of Chauvin’s conduct.
In addition to working for SRPD, Brodd taught at the Santa Rosa Junior College’s police academy for four decades before leaving in 2013. He also served as president of the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association between 2003 and 2006, according to the law enforcement union’s nonprofit tax filings and press coverage from the time.
Court records released last week show that, on April 20, several days after the vandalism, an SRPD detective received a warrant from the Sonoma County Superior Court to search the Sonoma County Meat Co. for security camera footage, a receipt for “the sale of the blood of a pig or the head of a pig” on April 16, and other financial records from the day.
During their search, detectives obtained a receipt for the cash purchase of 5 gallons of blood paid for by someone identified as “Chris.” A phone number used to order the blood, and video footage from the shop, both pointed to Kristen Aumoithe, the detective stated in a document filed with the court.
Using the evidence from the butcher’s shop, detectives filed a second, much more expansive search warrant application to investigate Aumoithe and her roommate, Rowan Dalbey. In the search warrant application, within the statement of probable cause, a detective describes surveilling the residence of Aumoithe and Dalbey and following Dalbey to her job. He also describes that information provided by an informant stated Dalbey’s employer.
In addition to containing the detective’s description of why both Aumoithe and Dalbey are considered suspects, the application outlines the items SRPD wishes to seize. The list is mostly composed of electronic devices and access to digital media, including stored passwords, text and voice messages, email, contacts, web search histories and more.
Although SRPD is operating on the assumption that the vandalism occurred in direct response to Brodd’s testimony on April 13—and, thus, could not have been planned before that—the search warrants request access to the suspect’s media from Jan. 17 through May 7. This also includes “all location data for the dates above. Location data may be stored as GPS locations or cellular tower connection data. Location data may be found in the metadata of photos and social networking posts, Wi-Fi logs, and data associated with installed applications.”
The document also requests to seize “all photographic/video/audio data and associated metadata,” without a date range cited. It requests that SRPD be allowed to seize and search the devices as long as needed, rather than for the 10 days a search warrant usually requires, noting that multiple searches are conducted simultaneously by SRPD and can take weeks to complete.
Judges authorized all search warrants in the case, setting the searches in motion. In total, officers searched the residence, vehicles and persons of Aumoithe and Dalbey, seizing two iPhones, three laptops, two tablets, a memory card for a camera, mail and a pay stub at the residence of Aumoithe and Dalbey. Later that day, they applied the same search criteria to Amber Lucas.
In texts and audio messages attributed to Lucas and Aumoithe quoted in the search warrant documents filed by an SRPD detective, the two women discuss plans for dumping blood at the mall and Aumoithe’s experience purchasing the blood at the butcher’s shop.
“We could literally wear backpacks with the blood and walk there from your house through the mall,” Aumoithe writes in one text sent on April 16.
“Perfect,” Lucas responds.
After news of the vandalism breaks the next day, Aumoithe expresses shock at the way the pig’s blood was used to vandalize Brodd’s former home.
“I thought they were gonna pour it on the ground by the head or something,” Aumoithe writes.
“Same,” Lucas replies.
“I’m not taking the blame for the house,” Aumoithe later writes.
The search warrants were requested pursuant to portions of Penal Code Section 1524 that allow for seizure of “Property used as means of committing a felony” and “Evidence that tends to show a felony was committed.”
In this case, SRPD’s request for search warrants hinged on the vandalism instances being charged as felonies, rather than misdemeanors. How an act of vandalism is charged hinges on the cost to repair the damage it caused. If the cost of the damages exceeds $400, the crime can be charged as a felony. Anyone suspected of a felony may be subjected to the sort of search warrants served to Aumoithe, Dalbey and Lucas.
Broadly speaking, felonies are considered the most serious crimes. Yet felonies range from murder to … vandalism. The $400 line between misdemeanor- and felony-level vandalism is a low threshold, opening many people accused of non-violent crimes to significant scrutiny.
In a statement, Aumoithe’s lawyer, Vincent Barrientos, called the DA’s charges trumped-up and said he suspects that the investigation has been tainted. “The Sonoma County District Attorney has overcharged this case, alleging a conspiracy that didn’t exist. My client never participated in, nor coordinated, any type of vandalism at the former home of Barry Brodd,” he said.
Lucas’s lawyer, Omar Figueroa, said in a statement that, “My client Amber Lucas is innocent and the allegations against her are untrue.” Figueroa also denied two claims made in the DA’s charges: that Lucas had posted on social media about taking action against Brodd on April 13, and that she had researched the location of Brodd’s house.
To date, the search warrant for Colin Metcalfe and Christina Henry remains sealed in its entirety. All five suspects are scheduled to appear in court in August.
This article is part of the Bohemian’s ongoing series about the fallout from the April pig’s head vandalism and the surrounding intrigue. Read the first part of the series, Bad Blood, here.
Thoughts, news tips or comments? You can reach Will Carruthers at firstname.lastname@example.org.