Isolated Tragedy Mars Celebration –
The Vanguard took to the streets of Picnic Day starting Saturday afternoon until nearly midnight. While the Vanguard did witness a number of arrests and citations, it saw limited evidence of any kind of violence.
By 10:30 last night, other than the high police presence, the street appeared quiet and the activity almost no higher than any other night.
There were parking spaces available in the downtown area most of the day and all night. The Graduate was fairly calm, as well, the times we went by, and we never saw never any kind of line outside.
The result was a large number of people walking around looking for something to do. And large numbers of police standing around talking. Perhaps there was a bit too little to do, as many police officers would respond to even minor incidents.
For the most part, maybe that was not such a bad thing.
According to police sources, while there were some fights and some public intoxication, the number of overall incidents and violent incidents were down, with only a few hours to go.
However, there was tragedy last night. The Vanguard received word near 11 pm that 2006 Davis High graduate and star baseball player Scott Heinig, who is now working as the pitching coach at the high school, got drunk, fell and hit his head and they believe that he may not make it.
According to a release from the Davis Police Department, “The victim was rushed from the scene to the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento where he is currently being treated and is in critical condition.”
Davis Police relied on help from other agencies. UC Davis Police were all over the place, as was Highway Patrol, but we also saw officers from West Sacramento, University of California and even the Probation Department.
The Davis police were grateful for the outside agencies, as it gave them the numbers to have the presence to keep things calm.
On the other hand, given the subdued mood in Davis last night, we saw large groups of police congregating and showing their presence with apparently not much to do.
We watched and videoed no less than 15 police encounters last night. One of the more serious ones occurred around 5 pm on A and 3rd Street immediately across the street from the university. A young man was violently taken to the ground and appeared to suffer some injuries.
While we caught this on film, it was unclear the nature of the arrest and his companions were very distraught over his treatment. At one point, he sat on the ground handcuffed, surrounded by seven police officers (as captured in the photo above).
Later we witnessed an individual pulled over for a broken tail light, and he ended up in a parking lot. They performed a field sobriety test on him, but he appeared to be okay. However, no less than six officers, mainly from the Highway Patrol, showed up to that incident.
The funniest incident, if you will, occurred in the Ace Parking lot on G Street. The police had congregated in a group late in the afternoon and began walking, about seven of them, when suddenly a bystander flagged them down and pointed to a couple in the midst of a heated argument.
So seven police officers on foot approached and surrounded what had to be a very surprised and startled individual. The woman did not want any part of this and they soon left, but this was a clear case of the overuse of personnel, none of whom were Davis Police Officers.
We became part of the story twice, later on, as well. In one case, on the corner of G and 2nd, the police had taken an individual to the ground, the police had him cuffed and we stood next to the KCRA camera shooting video of the incident.
A University of California officer approached me and demanded identification and proceeded to take down my information and run a check on me despite identifying myself as a member of the media. All the while, the KCRA camera man was allowed to film with no intervention.
A few minutes later we caught up with units who had arrested a man on F St by the park. While shooting video across the street, the Highway Patrol Officer came over to ask what we were doing. Remember, we have a right to video the police in California.
At first we thought the officer was being professional, as he asked where I was from and then said that we were over the bike lane line. So when we moved inside the line, we thought no problem. However, they then spent the next few minutes shining the light from their car directly at us, and finally said that we were parked in the red zone (which, looking later, we were not).
Almost all of these were minor incidents. From our vantage point, the police presence was important for keeping the peace and certainly after last year, erring on the side of caution was important.
However, also from our view, there were times when there were far more police responding to an incident than was reasonably necessary. The out-of-town police were much more aggressive, and at times outright rude. The Davis Police, for the most part, were friendly and professional in performing their jobs.
The policies set in place were an improvement over last year. Having the downtown businesses practice better crowd control and limit the number of customers was important.
At the same time, the clearest change was probably the students. Yes, there were lines in the usual places last night, but they were not gigantic lines. Moreover, there were few large parties that we saw. The Fraternities were mainly quiet.
Everyone aside from isolated individuals appeared to buy into the new program and everyone seemed inclined to prove that this could be a responsible but fun event.
I am not sure how much fun people were having last night, but it was definitely handled in a responsible way.
Picnic Day will live on. I only hope that the authorities fine tune a few things. It seems like downtown could have been more fully utilized.
My last complaint, if you will, was that it was warm yesterday, not hot, but because of the recent cool weather, it felt hot. Yet there was very little water available and, in fact, businesses were reluctant to give any out and there were no vendors on the street. That certainly could have been a problem, especially had it been hotter than the mid to high 70s that it actually was.
Overall, I would commend the police and the leadership in the community and the students for their efforts to tone down from last year.
—David M. Greenwald reporting