Four arrested at Friday’s Westminster Woods protest

Four people are in custody following an incident in the 6500 block of Bohemian Highway on Friday evening.

On November 15 at approximately 3:40 pm, deputies were dispatched to a call of unwanted people at Westminster Woods camp.  The suspects had blocked both entrances to the camp with vehicles, preventing anyone from leaving.  One person was reported to have a gun.

When deputies arrived, they first detained one unarmed man claiming to be a reporter. They then found three people wearing robes and anonymous-style masks.  Deputies detained them given the report of a person with a gun on the property.  The suspects did not follow basic orders and began yelling when they were placed in handcuffs.  Deputies found and detained a fourth suspect wearing the same style robe and mask. The suspects were continuously verbally and physically uncooperative. They were all wearing black hooded robes, black gloves, black silicone shoe covers, and anonymous-style masks.  Two were carrying walkie-talkie radios, one was wearing a bodyworn camera, and one was carrying pepper spray. Deputies also found flyers and a written plan for the protest. Deputies determined this incident was a protest against one of the groups attending the camp called the Center for Applied Rationality.

While some deputies detained the suspects, other deputies and SWAT team members spread out into the camp to find the guests and workers. Henry 1 assisted from the air. CHP officers assisted with the search and closed Bohemian Highway.

Deputies found people throughout the camp in open areas and buildings and began evacuating them from the property. SWAT safely evacuated approximately 36 people who were sheltered in place in the armored rescue vehicle known as the Bearcat. In total, approximately 50 people were evacuated from the property and driven to the Occidental Fire Department in a school bus. SWAT systematically searched the property but did not find the reported person with a gun.
The suspects had blocked the driveways with a small bus and a box truck and parked a Toyota Prius near the main office.  The EOD team, commonly called the bomb squad, searched the vehicles for explosives and determined they were safe. All the vehicles were towed.

The five people detained were interviewed at the Sheriff’s Office.  The four suspects dressed in robes continued to be uncooperative and would not fully identify themselves. Detectives determined the fifth person who had originally claimed to be a reporter did not commit any crimes; he was released. After interviews, four people were arrested and later identified through fingerprints. The suspects are Jack Lasota, 28, Berkeley; Gwen Danielson, 25, transient; Emma Borhanian, 28, Albany, CA; and Alexander Leatham, 24, unknown residence. All four were arrested for felony child endangerment, felony false imprisonment, felony conspiracy, misdemeanor resisting arrest, wearing a mask while committing a crime, and trespassing. Lasota, Danielson, and Leatham are in custody at the Sonoma County jail on $50,000 bail. Borhanian was released on November 16 on $50,000 bail.

The Sheriff’s Office supports people exercising their rights to peacefully protest.  These protestors were not peaceful, were arrested for multiple crimes, and caused fear and anxiety amongst the children and adults at the camp. The entire incident lasted approximately four hours. We sincerely appreciate the camp staff being alert and calling the Sheriff’s Office right away. This allowed us to respond early in the incident, before things escalated.

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