By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Another apparent “Driving While Black” incident here – the second high-profile one in recent months – is making the news because the longtime practice by police of stopping drivers because of racial bias without a violation of law is getting closer scrutiny.
Civil libertarians note that police cannot stop and detain an individual without a reason – probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion – to believe there is some criminal activity. But the Supreme Court has OK’d police to use traffic stops as a reason to “fish” for evidence. Statistical data shows police nationwide use this discretionary power primarily against Black and Brown people of color.
But in recent Sacramento cases, young children are being assaulted and/or traumatized by the actions of law enforcement, claim activists.
Monday, at a news conference near a light rail station in Sacramento, Shonna McDaniels provided a chilling narration of a traffic stop involving her son and daughter on Feb. 14 at the corner of Martin Luther King and 24th St.
McDaniels is the founder of Sacramento’s Banana Festival and the Sojourner Truth Museum in Sacramento. McDaniels has murals up throughout Sacramento
“I am horrified. My 13-year-old daughter could have been shot. This is current day apartheid Jim Crow,” said McDaniels, flanked by several dozen community supporters and Black Lives Matter Sacramento.
She said she received a heart-stopping phone call that day from a neighbor, and learned her son, Kelshon Keys, had been pulled over by law enforcement. By the time she arrived, it was all over but her daughter, Nasara Keys, 13, was “in a complete state of traumatization.”
As McDaniels recounts the story, an unmarked Sheriff’s car flashed lights at her son, a dutiful 22-year-old who was picking up his sister. The son, not knowing who was flashing lights – she said he suspected it could be the KKK knowing that “this is the climate we live in.”
Eventually, she said, the unmarked gang unit vehicle turned on its siren and her son obeyed and pulled to the side of the road. But the unit yanked him out of the car, guns drawn. Then deputies “snatched “the sister out of the car by her arm and threw her in the back seat of the sheriff’s car.
“She was so scared she started crying and screaming for her mom. A female officer with no compassion just ignored her,” said McDaniels.
And then the really scary part happened, according to Daniels, referencing the death of Stephon Clark nearly a year ago, when Sacramento Police riddled Clark with bullets and killed him as he tried to enter his grandparents’ home. Police said he was armed – but he only had a cellphone.
Just like McDaniels’ daughter.
“My daughter reached for her phone to call me. She’s been to plenty of workshops and warned about not reaching for anything in (law enforcement’s) presence. This is not abnormal for a child to forget because she is a child and only human in the face of terror. My heart is just broken knowing that my child could have lost her life just that quickly by reaching for her phone and they would have said they were justified because they thought she had a gun,” said McDaniels.
The deputies didn’t shoot her daughter, but they did some damage.
“They grabbed her out of the car roughly and placed her hands behind her back. At this point she is screaming for mercy. She just had surgery on her hand and has six stitches…they did not (respond) to her calls of mercy. Now she has to have her hand re-stitched,” said McDaniels.
McDaniels maintains that the deputies illegally detained both her children, searched them illegally and violated their rights.
She complained to the Sheriff’s Dept, and was told that they believed her son was a “common criminal” because he didn’t immediately stop when an unmarked vehicle chased him, and flashed its lights.
“My son is not a gang banger or common criminal. He’s a hard-working young man who works a full-time and part-time job. He should never have been victimized by the Sheriff’s department after a hard day of work and coming home to fulfill my request to pick up his sister from school,” McDaniels said.
“As far as him not immediately stopping they should know in today’s world a lot of unmarked vehicle stops have not always been officers and ultimately resulted in someone’s death. The police when in unmarked vehicles should identify themselves over the loud speakers with their badge ID and make citizens feel safe,” she said.
The alleged reason for the stop by the gang unit was an expired license tag – but McDaniels’ son was not cited because he had recently purchased the car from an auto auction and was waiting for the vehicle to pass a smog test.
“Until now I had no idea the Sac PD and Sheriff’s gang task force have been terrorizing Black and Brown community folk. The divisions are not set up in affluent communities to victimize people over minor traffic stops. This is just like the Gestapo, another form of modern Jim Crow and it must stop,” McDaniels said.
Tanya Faison, Black Lives Matter Sacramento organizer, noted that the Black community in Sacramento is “over-policed,” and multiple jurisdictions are regularly seen – including the Sacramento Sheriff, Sacramento City Police Dept., and security from University of Pacific/McGeorge Law School and even Univ. of CA Davis police (Med Center).
“No other community is treated like this…they murder us, and they could have murdered that young girl,” said Faison.
In early December, another Black family came forward with a similar account.
BLM said Caleb Macon and his family, including his daughter, were “brutalized” by the Sacramento Police Dept. in yet another example of the SPD’s targeting of Blacks in the community, noting the high number of Black men – including Stephon Clark, who was unarmed – killed by Sacramento city police or county sheriff’s deputies.
A dramatic video of the incident provided by “Cop Watch” – and obtained by the Vanguard – appears to show SPD officers making the arrest of Caleb Macon, and then turning to arrest his wife and brother, all while a child cries in the background.
The video vividly shows the Black family confronted by more than a half dozen Sacramento Police Dept. officers at a traffic stop.
Initially, Caleb Macon, apologizing to police for asking them questions and maintaining his innocence, is handcuffed. Then his brother, checking the status of his sibling, is handcuffed and then police target Caleb’s wife Lashaun Royal, and arrest her – she also suffered a concussion and had her hair pulled out by SPD, said BLM. The family’s teen daughter is shoved to the ground.
“Caleb Macon was brutalized and arrested. His wife was brutalized and arrested. His brother was brutalized and arrested. His daughter was pushed to the ground while being traumatized,” said Faison.
Faison and BLM Sacramento released a list of demands, including a demand for all SPD audio and video, including body-cameras of the SPD officers involved, all video and audio of the Sacramento Sheriff’s department’s officers and helicopter and the names of all the officers involved.
“We demand that the Sacramento Police Department stop terrorizing Black families that have members that are on, or have been on parole or probation (and) stop using infraction and misdemeanor stops to criminalize Black community that are in, and outside, predominately Black neighborhoods,” said Faison.
“Officers found to have engaged in abusive behavior towards Black people in the community they patrol should be immediately removed and barred from any further engagement in that community,” added Faison.
Faison also charges “SacPD officers (should) remain professional during interactions with the communities they police (and) stop using abusive language and tactics toward Black community members and when officers engaging in predatory behavior that is clearly without legal cause, that they be sanctioned (and) stop using retaliatory methods that intentionally keep Black community members in control of, and beholden to, the current criminal system.”
Black Lives Matter Sacramento is also asking that “when abuse and trauma has been inflicted on the members of families, particularly children, compensation should be provided for mental health treatment either directly funded by the Police Department or the City of Sacramento.”