By Crescenzo Vellucci
SACRAMENTO – Twenty-two-year-old Stephon Clark has been dead now for more than two weeks, riddled with eight bullets shot by Sacramento city police officers – six of them in the back of the unarmed (except for a cell phone) young man. In all, they fired 20 shots at Mr. Clark.
The District Attorney of Sacramento County says she will investigate – she’s faced a series of rallies in front of her office that has closed it down parts of last week and will this week.
But most have no faith Anne Marie Schubert will do much of anything despite the political pressure, largely because she’s never charged a law enforcement officer with a crime and there have been a series of police murders and brutalizations over the past four years since she’s been in office.
And the Sacramento City Council and police chief have promised reforms. Good for political points.
Yet this past Saturday, at an uneventful vigil and march for Mr. Clark, violence reared its ugly head again. As usual, it wasn’t law enforcement in the cross-hairs. It was a resident. An unarmed resident. Again.
And, as of Monday evening, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol were promising to investigate. But no one’s holding their breath.
Sixty-one-year-old Wanda Cleveland was the victim this time, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother nearly three times Mr. Clark’s age. Unlike Mr. Clark, she’s not dead and maybe a little lucky. Banged up, but lucky.
As it turns out, Ms. Cleveland was marching in support of Mr. Clark and against his killers.
A particular focus of this vigil was the Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept., whose chopper gave incorrect, and deadly, information to Sacramento City police officers on the ground two weeks ago, reporting from the air that the “suspect” had a tire iron. That alerted officers, who prepared for an armed suspect – they later killed Mr. Clark believing that. But the information relayed by the Sheriff’s Dept. was wrong. Mr. Clark was unarmed except for his cell phone.
Ms. Cleveland was, in effect, mowed down by a law enforcement vehicle Saturday – and you guessed it, it was a Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept. cruiser, which sped off after hitting Ms. Cleveland who had been crossing in front of the vehicle in full sight. It didn’t matter to the deputy driving. He or She “burned rubber,” slamming into Ms. Cleveland, knocking her into the gutter where she lay until she was taken to the hospital.
The Sheriff’s car? It left and didn’t look back…a “hit and run” by any standard. In fact, two legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild – there to monitor law enforcement if they used excessive force or violated the rights of demonstrators – were first-hand witnesses and as county public defenders were shocked by the action, noting that they’ve defended non-law enforcement people who faced attempted murder, hit and run and assault with a deadly weapon for doing less.
Instead, a CHP cruiser that showed up a few minutes later a ways from the scene refused to take a report or even investigate the crime scene and talk to witnesses – anyone who works in or around the legal system knows that witnesses’ memories are best immediately after a crime.
And not only did CHP badge number 20308 – he said – refuse to take a report or do anything despite the presence of witnesses – including two officers of the court, an NLG recording of the alleged crime and vehicle identification of the Sheriff’s vehicle, he repeatedly threatened to arrest an NLG legal observer who asked him to investigate.
Later, when NLG legal observers attempted to approach CHP and Sheriff vehicles several blocks away and glean their identification and make a citizen report about the hit and run, they were also threatened with arrest. CHP officers also refused to offer their badge numbers as required.
And so it goes.
To those protesting Mr. Clark’s death, the “collaboration” – or collusion – of the CHP and Sheriff’ Dept. only proved that law enforcement agencies protect each other, and not average citizens. That they cover up each other’s mistakes.
In the eyes of those already convinced that law enforcement is corrupt, these incidents only confirmed that those in “blue” believe they are above the law, free to murder a young unarmed man. Free to run over an arthritic 61-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
It may not be the case. But to many it sure looks like it.