By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO – Monday, on the same day that the City of Sacramento said it was dismissing charges against 65 people arrested for curfew violations during the George Floyd police brutality protests a month ago, a legal observer shot in the face by police filed a complaint to have that officer or officers arrested and prosecuted.
There was a certain irony to those intertwining stories – peaceful protestors with hands up battered by tear gas, pepper balls, concussion grenades and so-called “less-than-lethal” hard projectiles fired at their faces were set free Monday.
But their tormentors and, in effect, judge, jury and executioners with badges are now facing arrest and prosecution.
National Lawyers Guild legal observer and local chapter board member Danny Garza, a six-year military veteran, described what he called a “wartime” scene on the streets of Sacramento May 30 when he was standing out of the way of police, as directed by them, and recording the actions of law enforcement.
“There was no reason to shoot me. I was filming excessive force on others (by police),” said Garza, who was hit with a rubber bullet or facsimile just above his left eye, sending him to the Veterans Administration with a concussion and other injuries.
Even when Garza was smashed in the face, and medics sought to get him away from the scene, officers fired repeated rounds of pepper spray canisters at him as he crouched under a stairwell far from the protest.
“Officers acted as though they were above the law. What they did was intentional, with malice and criminal,” said Garza, who was clearly identified as a legal observer and “non-participant” with a bright green hat. The same police told him earlier to stay off the street and move to the sidewalk, which is where Garza was when he was hit
“I am asking that criminal charges be filed by the District Attorney,” said Garza Monday at a Zoom news conference, supported by a number of people, in green hats, who are also legal observers.
“No, they (police) are not above the law. They can defend themselves in court just like the rest of us,” added Garza, noting that his vision is still blurry, he has short term memory lapses, nausea and other debilitating physical problems relating to his injury suffered that night.
“They knew they hurt me, and never offered to assist me; they fired at people on the ground and those grabbing them and directed fire at medics helping me,” said Garza.
Garza said law enforcement that night included those from the Sacramento Police Dept., Davis Police, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept., Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. and the California Highway Patrol.
Monday, he filed his complaint with the Sacramento Police Dept. Internal Affairs and Sacramento Community Police Review Commission, with copies to the Sacramento County District Attorney Office, City of Sacramento Mayor, and City Council, CA Attorney General, the United Nations and U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division.
“It is Mr. Garza’s wish and intent that criminal charges be sought and responsible parties be prosecuted in criminal court to the fullest extent of the law. Mr. Garza also demands the immediate arrest of SPD Officer Badge #1011, or those found to be responsible for Mr. Garza’s injuries,” according to a statement from the Mark Merin Law Office, which represents Garza.
According to the complaint, “The officer aimed his firearm at Mr. Garza and fired. Mr. Garza was struck on the left side of his forehead, just above his left eye, with a projectile. Mr. Garza fell to the ground, crying-out in pain.”
The complaint continued, “Mr. Garza felt severe pain and blood trickling from his face. Mr. Garza had been concussed by the projectile shot at his head. Mr. Garza stood up, walked to the police line, and confronted the officer he believed had shot him (and) repeatedly asked for the officer to identify his badge number. The officer responded ‘#1011.’ However, Mr. Garza does not know if the officer who provided the badge number is same the officer responsible for shooting him in the face.”
“They (police) saw us, they knew us, they have no excuse,” said Elizabeth Kim, president of the NLG Sacramento Chapter, and who was also legal observing that night with Garza. “Danny was recording acts of random violence by police,” Kim said, adding that there is evidence that authorities are targeting legal observers and news media at police brutality demonstrations.
The complaint made that point, as well: “Mr. Garza donned a military-style gas mask which permitted him to observe the demonstration without the gas affecting him. Mr. Garza continued to wear his high-visibility neon-green hat identifying him as a nonparticipant NLG Legal Observer.”
“They are not absolved of shooting Danny in the face,” noted Kim, who said in private discussions with law enforcement she’s learned they have a policy of shooting projectiles at the face. She said Danny is a co-founder of the chapter, and the primary Know Your Rights trainer for the community and that his continued loss is “immeasurable.”
Civil rights lawyer Mark Merin Monday called the shooting an “outrage,” noting that people were protesting police brutality across the country, “and how did our police respond? With more violence. Using new types of weapons against peaceful protestors.”
Merin has already filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Garza and at least three other people – including those who may or have lost their eyesight from being hit by the rubber bullets, or facsimile, fired indiscriminately by law enforcement.
Police “engaged in actions to fire into the crowd, and then they ran down and targeted Danny,” Merin added.
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