By BRETT WILKISON & KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo was arrested early Saturday morning wearing nothing but his socks and underwear after a woman in his west Santa Rosa neighborhood reported that he tried to break into her home through a bedroom window, police said.
Although Santa Rosa police arrested him on suspicion of burglary and prowling, they believe his intent was to commit some type of sexual assault, according to Sgt. Terry Anderson.
Carrillo, 32, was arrested after a 3:40 a.m. 911 call in the area of Stony Point Road at West Third Street, within a block of his rented Brockhurst Drive apartment. He was booked at Sonoma County Jail at 10:10 a.m. and was released on $40,000 bail within two hours, according to a jail watch commander. He has a court appearance scheduled for Thursday.
In the six hours that elapsed between the emergency call and Carrillo’s jailing, Santa Rosa police determined he had been drinking and decided his explanation was not plausible.
“To us it looked like it had the potential to be a sexual assault of some type,” Anderson said.
Both Carrillo and his close advisers sought Saturday to connect his behavior to what they said was a drinking problem.
“I realize that my behavior was embarrassing. It involved alcohol and I’m taking immediate steps to seek professional help,” Carrillo said in an emailed statement. He did not respond to calls, text messages or follow-up emails requesting an interview or further comment.
Plans were being made today to get Carrillo checked into rehab, said Eric Koenigshofer, a political supporter and former west county supervisor.
It was the second arrest in less than a year for Carrillo, a Santa Rosa native whose life story as the son of Mexican immigrants and reputation as a dedicated public official have garnered him attention from California’s Democratic Party as a promising young Latino candidate.
Ten months ago, Carrillo was arrested in another early morning police call. Charges from that incident — a fight outside a downtown San Diego nightclub on Labor Day that left a man unconscious — were later dropped by prosecutors.
The arrest Saturday could jeopardize his elected county post and puts up an immediate obstacle to his ambitions for higher office. Carrillo was widely expected this summer to announce a run for state legislative office.
Police said a woman awakened by the sound of moving blinds in her bedroom called to report that someone had attempted to enter through the window. She then called a second time to say that the person had knocked on her front door and identified himself as a neighbor before running away, police said.
Police found the woman’s bedroom window screen had been torn enough to allow someone to reach through the screen and partially open the window.
Officers arriving at the scene saw a man carrying a cellphone and walking toward them while wearing only underwear and socks, Anderson said.
Carrillo attempted to explain his behavior to detectives, but it didn’t add up, Anderson said. He declined to say what Carrillo’s explanation was.
“He did have an explanation, but obviously to us, coupled with the evidence that we found at the crime scene, it wasn’t a good enough explanation,” Anderson said. “Had he been able to explain it away to the extent that we were comfortable that it was just a mistake, then he wouldn’t have gone to jail.”
The woman, who was not identified by police, told a detective from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigations Team that she knew Carrillo from “informal neighborhood contact” on several occasions more than a month ago.
The two have never had a physical relationship but had spoken two or three times, Anderson said.
Police Saturday morning interviewed many of the residents in the 14-unit apartment complex where Carrillo has lived for five years, according to Vickie Lima, the on-site manager.
They asked general questions to see if anyone had witnessed the reported early morning incident, Lima said, adding that she had not heard or seen anything herself.
Anderson said the totality of the circumstances led police to arrest Carrillo on suspicion of the more serious charge of burglary in addition to prowling.
“Based on our investigation and the way he was dressed and comments he made, we felt it supported that increase from the prowling charge to burglary,” Anderson said.
Burglary involves entering a home or structure with the intent to commit a crime, and in this case detectives said it appeared Carrillo intended to commit a sexual assault, Anderson said.
Carrillo’s state of undress, the evidence of a broken screen, and the fact that he identified himself as a neighbor all contributed to the arrest decision, Anderson said.
Ultimately, whether there is sufficient evidence to support the burglary charge will be up to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, he said.
Carrillo’s colleagues on the Board of Supervisors were notified of his arrest through a round of mid-morning calls and emails from Chris Thomas, the assistant county administrator, and County Administrator Veronica Ferguson.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, first elected to the county board along with Carrillo in 2008, called the arrest “incredibly troubling.”
Supervisor Susan Gorin said she was “stunned” and “disappointed” by the news.
“From just the circumstances I’ve heard about, I take this latest incident very seriously,” Gorin said.
Carrillo was re-elected last year with a wide margin over his rival and now holds various regional posts representing the area. He was elected this year to a governing seat for a statewide organization of counties, a body he is set to lead within two years.
But Saturday’s incident and the prospect of another, possibly more serious legal case could put a darker cloud over his reputation.
Friends said the incident is a clear sign that Carrillo has a drinking problem for which he needs professional treatment.
“It’s a tragic thing because he’s a tremendous guy and a great friend and great community figure, but he has a problem with alcohol,” said Koenigshofer, the former county supervisor and Carrillo adviser.
Lima, the apartment complex manager, said Carrillo had been an “excellent tenant” and had never been the subject of any complaint by neighbors.
“I’m just so shocked,” Lima said after learning of the arrest.
How much Carrillo had been drinking, where and with whom remain unclear.
He attended a fundraiser Friday evening for the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, according to Zane.
Beer and wine were served at the event, held from 5 to 10 p.m. on a playing field at Sonoma Academy. Zane said she did not see Carrillo drinking.
Koenigshofer said he didn’t know details about how much Carrillo had been drinking, but only learned that alcohol was involved from Susan Upchurch, Carrillo’s district director.
Officers did not arrest him on suspicion of public intoxication.
“The officers at the scene characterized him as ‘had been drinking,’ but not sloppy drunk or anything like that,” Anderson said.
Detectives who interviewed him later, around 8a.m., did not consider him to be drunk, Anderson said.
Carrillo missed at least two scheduled events Saturday.
He was set to speak at a 10 a.m. event for Amigos de La Biblioteca, a library support group, at the central Sonoma County branch in Santa Rosa.
Upchurch was there waiting for him.
“When he didn’t show and I couldn’t reach him, I started calling around,” Upchurch said.
She said she found out about his arrest an hour later in a telephone call with a family member of the supervisor.
She declined to answer other questions Saturday or offer further comment, calling it a “personal matter.”
Fourth District Supervisor Mike McGuire said little about his colleague’s latest legal woes.
“I’m concerned for all involved and I’m going to wait to see additional information before I comment further,” McGuire said.
Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board chairman, was on a family vacation in the Sierra Nevada east of Sonora and could not be reached. His aide, Andrea Krout, said she could not confirm that he was aware of the arrest.
Carrillo was on what he called a “mini-vacation” with friends to San Diego last year when he was involved in the street brawl, police said. He was booked on suspicion of battery causing a serious injury, a felony, and disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors subsequently declined to file charges because there were “conflicting accounts of what occurred and insufficient evidence” to prove a case, according to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.
Carrillo remained tight-lipped about the matter for more than a month, offering only two written statements.
In an interview, he finally said he was “pleased with the decision” and thanked San Diego police and prosecutors for a “thorough” investigation.
Carrillo’s second written statement said he had come to the aid of female friends he claimed were being verbally and physically harassed by a stranger.
But Koenigshofer suggested the San Diego incident may have involved alcohol, as well. Asked why he believed Carrillo had a drinking problem, Koenigshofer said he was aware of “two incidents where the common thread is alcohol has been involved,” adding that the other incident was San Diego.
“I know the guy really well and he’s a delightful guy, and the only time it seems that he winds up with any behavioral issues is when he’s been drinking,” Koenigshofer said.
(Staff Writer Guy Kovner and News Researcher Janet Balicki contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com.)