Sideshows in Sonoma County? Indeed there was a big one there in early July, and Santa Rosa police just issued 14 arrest warrants, plus their searches have turned up nearly a dozen firearms and thousands of ammunition rounds.
We think of Sonoma County and Santa Rosa as wine country, not a hotbed of guns-a-blazing sideshows. But a Cinco de Mayo sideshow last year in Santa Rosa left one person shot, and local officials insist that sideshows are rising dramatically across Sonoma County. “Throughout 2022, we saw a 62% increase in sideshows from 2021,” according to a new release from the Santa Rosa Police Department. “Illegal sideshows are not localized to just Santa Rosa. They continue to be a dangerous problem in all cities in Sonoma County.”
That new release from the Santa Rosa PD was put out because, as KPIX reports, the department has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged sideshow organizers and promoters. They arrested seven suspects Tuesday, and there are reports that four more have turned themselves in. KRON4 adds that “During the arrests, 11 firearms were also seized with thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
Have a look at the aftermath of a sideshow, which Santa Rosa police say was laid in the street the night of July 9, 2022, or the early morning of July 10. Bay City News says the Santa Rosa Police Department Property Crime team has been “focusing for two years on illegal sideshows” so it’s not a new issue. But the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says these arrests are linked to that July 9-10 sideshow, which that paper wrote up at the time.
“In July, police reported sideshow participants attempted to take over five intersections but only managed to organize at one: Guerneville and Willowside roads, just outside city limits,” the Press Democrat reports. “Participants tried to set up at Sebastopol Road and West Avenue, which had been a hot spot for sideshows previously. Other locations were at Stony Point Road and Bellevue Avenue; Piner and Fulton roads; and Aston Way and Petaluma Hill Road.”
The Facebook post above describes the initial seven arrests from Tuesday. Charges range from the expected felony vandalism and misdemeanor possession of illegal fireworks, but also the less-expected charge of felony waterway pollution. As mentioned above, one suspect was charged with felony possession of an assault rifle, and another with child endangerment, because that suspect “was located with an unsecured firearm that children had access to.”
The above vehicle is listed in the Santa Rosa PD’s assessment of these sideshows’ collateral damage. Their announcement adds that “SRPD detectives are working with the Santa Rosa City Attorney’s Office to examine civil litigation options to recover the costs for roadway repairs and engineering and City staff time for addressing sideshows."
As mentioned previously, seven of the 14 suspects were arrested Tuesday. The above screenshot lists them, but in some late-breaking Wednesday morning news, KCBS Radio’s Mike DeWald reports that four of those remaining suspects “have since turned themselves in.”
Update: @SantaRosaPolice say 4 people have since turned themselves in, meaning 3 warrants left outstanding.— Mike DeWald (@mike_dewald) January 25, 2023
Santa Rosa has made its sideshow laws stricter so that even mere spectators can be cited. But according to KPIX, these 14 individuals were “determined to be organizers.”
Back in 2021, a Santa Rosa city councilperson had suggested legalizing and sanctioning sideshows, but clearly the council went the opposite direction.
In recent years, San Jose enacted a similar law to prosecute those who organize, promote, or simple spectate at sideshows. San Jose police did a broad sting in November that hemmed in drivers from all sides trying to leave a sideshow, and they issued 700 citations. Oakland is reportedly considering a similar sideshow law.
Image: @SantaRosaPolice via Twitter