Petaluma man accused of choking young boy has been arrested dozens of times

PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) -- A man familiar to North Bay police is in jail Friday, accused of choking a young boy.

Petaluma police arrested 49-year-old Eric Wayne Conroy Thursday. ABC7 News has learned Conroy has had nearly 100 run-ins with police.

Conroy is considered transient and a repeat offender. He has been arrested almost two dozen times.

Petaluma neighbors sounded off about an incident that happened at Walnut Park Thursday. Two teenage boys were sitting on a park bench when they were approached by Conroy.

Police say the suspect approached the teens from behind and started choking one of the boys with a canvas strap.

"He placed it around the 14-year-old's neck and lifted him off the ground with it," said Lt. Rob Klein of the Petaluma Police Department. "He struggled, and freed himself."

The attack was unprovoked. The teen was not hurt and called 911. Police arrested Conroy.

"He's been provided various resources through the year," Klein told ABC7 News.

"For that to happen, is scary," said parent Jessica Cortez-Ramierez. "We feel safe here, farmer's market here. Kids running around."

Many parents are on alert. The park and playground is a popular spot renovated in the past year.

"It's frustrating," said Maureen Frances says local service clubs have funded safety upgrades like surveillance cameras and better lighting.

"We want to see kids back here," said Frances. "And that's happening now."

Some say they've seen Conroy in the park before. He remains in the Sonoma County Jail charged with assault with a deadly weapon and child abuse.
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