March 2, 2022
On March 2, 2022, a Humboldt County jury found Delano Blayze Malang (age 22) guilty of mayhem, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, including personally causing great bodily injury, resisting a peace officer with force or violence, and delaying or obstructing a police officer.
The case arose from an incident on the Arcata Plaza on August 1, 2021, when officers responded to a call concerning two people who had been involved in a fight. Arcata Police Department (APD) Officers Jamal Jones and Joseph Rodes arrived and contacted one person involved in the fight. That person cooperated with the officers; he received a warning about fighting and was ordered to leave.
Testimony at trial revealed that as Officer Jones communicated with the first participant in the fight, he saw Malang approach. Officer Jones knew from previous contacts the history of physical altercations between Malang and the other person. Officer Jones repeatedly asked and ordered Malang to leave the area to avoid antagonizing the other person.
After Malang walked away, officers observed his erratic behavior and verbal conflicts with other people on the Plaza. Malang appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine. Several citizens complained to officers about Malang’s aggressive behavior, his methamphetamine use on the Plaza, littering, and cursing in front of children. People also reported to the officers that Malang had a ferret that he was allowing to run up into the trees on the Plaza and eat birds’ eggs.
Officers Jones and Rodes then attempted to contact Malang, who repeatedly ignored orders from the officers to stop. Jones and Rodes attempted to detain Malang inside Café Brio and he began to physically resist.
As Jones, Rodes, and APD Sgt. Groszmann tried to get Malang inside a police car, Malang violently resisted and tried to bang his own head into the police car.
Sgt. Groszmann testified that at that point she ordered officers to let Malang sit outside the police car while the three of them tried to calm him down. Sgt. Groszmann then requested and received the assistance of retired HSU Police Department Sgt. John Packer, who is widely known for his skills in de-escalation. The jury heard from Sgt. Packer that his attempts to communicate with Malang were unsuccessful and that he believed words would not work. Officers pleaded with Malang to voluntarily get inside of the patrol vehicle, and he continued to refuse. Officers attempted de-escalation for approximately 20 minutes.
Sgt. Groszmann decided to bring a police van to Malang, because the wider opening of the van could facilitate getting Malang safely inside. While getting Malang into the van, Sgt. Groszmann testified that she attempted to hold Malang’s head in place so that he would not hurt himself. At this time, Malang lunged toward Sgt. Groszmann and bit some of her thumb off and spit it out.
Officers’ body-worn cameras captured the entire incident, so jurors directly observed the extreme professionalism and leadership Sgt. Groszmann demonstrated before and after suffering a major injury: jurors saw how caring and respectful she was to Malang, even after having her thumb bitten off. Instead of going to the emergency room immediately, she continued to command the scene, ensure that Malang did not injure himself, and ensure that other officers on scene remained safe.
Dr. David Blake, an expert in police use of force, testified during the trial and opined that all officers were lawfully performing their duties during their contact with Malang and handled the situation with the least amount of force necessary.
The District Attorney’s Office thanks the officers of the Arcata Police Department for demonstrating professional and compassionate policing, and the jury for the time and attention they gave the case.
Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm prosecuted the case with assistance from District Attorney Investigator Marvin Kirkpatrick. Deputy Conflict Counsel R.J. Leohner represented Malang; Judge Elvine-Kreis presided over the two-week trial. Sentencing is scheduled for March 30, 2022.