Guerneville beating victim decries sheriff, medical responses

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 10, 2023
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Isaac Featherston shared this photo that was taken when he got back from the hospital the morning after he was attacked. Photo: Courtesy Isaac Featherston
Isaac Featherston shared this photo that was taken when he got back from the hospital the morning after he was attacked. Photo: Courtesy Isaac Featherston

What began as an Easter weekend getaway ended as a traumatizing, unsolved battery at a widely-known gay resort in the North Bay.

Isaac Featherston, 40, was in Guerneville at the R3 Hotel with two friends: Celso Dulay, 53, and Chris Knight, 57, who are married. All three are gay men from San Francisco.

Dulay said that after hanging out by the pool at R3 April 9, they decided to go to McT's Bullpen to play pool.

"Chris and I ended up leaving, and Isaac was going to stay and play pool with a person he just met," Dulay told the Bay Area Reporter.

Featherston and the man — who he remembers gave his name as Jordy or Jordie, though he's uncertain of the spelling — proceeded to Rainbow Cattle Company, a gay bar, to continue their pool match.

"We were basically the only people there — they closed the bar down early, at 1 [a.m.] — he was adamant about being straight and married with kids," Featherston told the B.A.R. "I literally was there to play pool so that was fine; it didn't matter. For me it was 'I'm here to play pool with you.'"

Featherston then invited the man to his room at R3 for a nightcap, he said.

"There's video of us coming in together," Featherston said. "I poured us a shot and I had to pee, so I went to the bathroom and, as I came back, he was pouring another drink — and that's the last thing I remember, having that drink, sitting on the bed clothed having an amicable normal conversation."

The next thing Featherston remembers is "the sound of something hitting my head," he said.

"I couldn't even fend it off," Featherston explained. "I was in the fetal position defending my head. I know it was just him, though it felt like 'how can this be just one person?' ... I ran — he had been holding me down, he grabbed my throat and said 'I'm going to kill you.' It was life or death. Running for my life, I didn't realize till I got outside and was on the deck screaming that I was naked."

Featherston ran over to Dulay and Knight's room.

"When we got Isaac in the room, it was obvious he didn't realize what was going on," Knight said. "He was very disoriented and upset. I was afraid he had a concussion."

Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies and "four to five medical people" showed up, Knight said.

Mistreatment alleged

It was at that point that all three men contend Featherston was mistreated at every level of emergency response. They said that the line of questioning from the man they describe as the lead sheriff's deputy was trying to get at "rough sex gone wrong," as Featherston put it.

The deputy asked Featherston "what were you doing for two hours?" he said.

"I was like 'I don't know dude, I got fucking drugged. I don't know what he was doing,'" Featherston said. "And he's like 'Oh, well at some point someone spoke to someone in a room nearby and he said maybe he [the assailant] was bitten on the shoulder," to which Featherston responded "'Are you serious right now? I bit him in self-defense. Good for me.'" Dulay said that the tone of the sheriff's deputies was "callous and rude."

"When [sheriff's deputies] got there they were speaking with Isaac, we were on the bed, and they were callous and removed," he said. "I think it was a sheriff or whoever was in charge who was like 'You need to cover yourself up,' without compassion, so we gave him a sheet, and they were very kind of callous and rude."

The sheriff's office report, provided by Featherston to the B.A.R., describes what happened as "simple assault" involving "hands, feet, teeth, etc." The summary states that "an unknown suspect battered the victim inside a hotel room."

Featherston's mother, Carla Featherston, 63, of Springdale, Arkansas, took issue with that.

"From the report, it seems downplayed," she said. "He should have noted from the wounds on him that a weapon was used. Isaac thinks it was probably a broken piece of furniture."

Carla Featherston said in subsequent weeks she has wanted to give the sheriff's office "the benefit of the doubt" but is concerned there has not been meaningful progress in finding the assailant.

"Basically his answer ... was 'I want to find out who it was but right now I don't know,'" Carla Featherston recounted.

She replied, in emails, "Did you talk to people in the area? Take pictures of the room?' His answers were always very brief and it took days in-between for him to get back to me. The last time he basically said, 'The report says only hands and feet were used,' but if you see a picture of Isaac you can see fists couldn't have done that. When I asked the deputy, he said, 'I don't know because Isaac doesn't remember anything.' My answer was 'Yeah, because he was drugged.' He never replied to that email."

While the sheriff's office has returned a call from Carla Featherston since, she isn't sure if it's worth calling back.

"I'm just disappointed. I'm very disappointed," she said. "It seems like there was no effort."

To top it off, Dulay said that a sheriff's office is "across the street" from McT's Bullpen.

"A lot of this is very suspect," he said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Medical response

Featherston was taken to Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, where his lips were stitched and he was given a CT scan. However, his vitals were not taken, a rape kit was not administered, and the results of the CT scan were not explained, he said.

"I assumed they got results because someone said 'OK you can go now,'" Featherston said. "At no point did anyone come and explain the results. I had to get out of my bed and roam the halls to ask for ibuprofen. Saying to me 'You can go' doesn't mean I know how to go. I don't even know where I am in the hospital."

Then, a staff member told Featherston, "We don't mean to rush you but we really just need this room right now." He recalled replying, "I'm happy to go but can you tell me how to get out of here. I don't work here."

In a statement, a Sutter spokesperson stated the company could not speak on specifics.

"Safe and compassionate patient care is at the core of our mission. While our commitment to patient privacy and related legal requirements prevent us from speaking to specifics, we always want our patients to feel well-informed throughout their experience and that they received the care they need. When we receive a complaint, we work to fully resolve any concerns," the spokesperson stated.

"Additionally, we identify opportunities for improvement that can help enhance future patient care experiences," the spokesperson added. "Sutter is proud to be a nationally recognized leader in health care quality and, in pursuit of our community-focused mission, we are committed to providing our patients comprehensive, high-quality care."

Dulay said they've gotten "no outreach from the sheriff's office, nothing from R3; the whole thing is a pile of utter shit dripping with homophobia and discrimination, in my opinion."

The R3 Hotel did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

"I'm glad we witnessed the bad police work and bad medical assistance," Dulay said.

Featherston said that, "in the moment, I couldn't appreciate how I was being treated" because of the trauma of having been drugged and beaten.

"It's even worse than I thought it was," he said. "Especially only being only an hour from San Francisco. We have a luxury of living in a bubble where we're judged on our character and nothing else, so being treated in such a way so close to home — based on assumptions and ideas — was kind of shocking."

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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