By Jose Medina
LINCOLN, CA – Jamilia Land, founder of Anti-Violence Safety and Accountability Project, held a press conference Wednesday along with other activists to bring attention to a deputy-involved shooting in Placer County, just across the county line from Sacramento.
On Jan. 11 at 1:20 a.m., Albert Savala was shot four times by a Placer County Sheriff’s Deputy in the Thunder Valley Casino parking lot. Savala was heading to the casino with a friend when he was pulled over in the parking lot for a minor traffic violation.
The deputies at the scene harassed Savala, calling him a ‘gang banger” even as he complied with their orders and gave them his information, charged Land.
They opened Savala’s car door and pulled him out. One deputy shot the unarmed Savala, who had his hands in the air.
Land noted that Savala was then transported to the hospital and for three days no one knew his whereabouts and he was not allowed to call anyone, not even a lawyer in those three days. The incident resulted in 25 fractures in one arm and severe damage that required surgery for Savala.
He was then taken to county jail where he is currently detained and facing an excessive bail amount.
Savala’s family worries that he is not getting the appropriate medical care he needs while he is being detained and they are actively working around the clock to find details of the incident.
Savala and his family have not had full disclosure of all the footage from the incident. They said they’re still waiting for Thunder Valley Casino footage and Savala was briefly shown in dash cam footage of the incident.
It’s important to note that Placer County Sheriff’s Deputies do not wear body cameras so no such footage exists in Savala’s case.
At the press conference, Land passionately called on media outlets to “help in sharing Albert’s story and to get more answers about this deputy, why is it no one is reporting and why have these deputies not been held accountable.”
Land revealed that the deputy has served in a total of three police departments in the course of five years, including Elk Grove, Contra Costa, and Placer County. Given this fact, Land indicated the possibility of the deputy having a troubling reputation and that further investigation must be conducted into the deputy’s conduct.
On the subject of the deputy’s conduct, Land also revealed that the deputy had threatened and harassed Savala in the presence of the EMT on the way to the hospital.
Savala recalled the traumatic experience, saying that when the paramedic asked the deputy to uncuff him during the ambulance ride to get his blood pressure, the deputy “took off my handcuffs and said ‘if you move or do anything wrong I will shoot you in your f***ing head.’“
Savala added that the deputy harassed him with phrases like “you ended up in the wrong county” and said he didn’t understand the hostility toward him, noting, “I didn’t understand why he said that, I was already shot, they already had me” and added, “I wasn’t resisting.”
However, this type of behavior from Placer County deputies is not new.
Leia Schenck, the founder of Empact Org., remarked that “Placer County has a history of these sort of racial attacks, that jargon of ‘you’re in the wrong county’ and ‘you’re in the wrong city’ they’ve used that on me.”
She added “I’ve heard them say many times that you crossed the line, the line meaning Sacramento County and Placer County line.”
Schenck called out the racism that is prevalent in Placer County, noting that “we know that when it comes to Black and Brown people they are targeted very heavily in Placer County.”
In addition, Savala’s case is not being reported on with the accuracy and attention it deserves, organizers said.
Savala’s mother, Katina Coronado, stated that “the stories the media and news articles are spinning are far from the truth” and that the “Placer County Sheriff’s statement was the only thing given on the situation and the news media rolled with that info.”
She added that “they’re bringing up a juvenile record from when he was 16; he hasn’t been in any trouble as an adult.”
Coronado suspects that Placer County is trying to promote a false narrative of Savala, saying “that’s one of the reasons why they’re still holding him; they’re trying to bring up his record for something that shouldn’t have been brought up in a traffic stop.”
Coronado also referred back to the incident at the moment when they harassed Savala and called him a “gang banger.” She noted that “they’re trying to call my son a gang banger, which he is not. He’s got dreads in his hair so you’re profiling him.”
It is suspected that a false narrative being promoted by the county and racial profiling of Savala by law enforcement are both indications of the systemic racism that is present in Placer County.
As the mother of Savala, Coronado has many questions concerning the incident, especially on the subject of the minor traffic violation that the deputies used to stop Savala in the first place.
She maintains that “in the videos when we finally get them you’ll see that the reason they said they stopped him was because his left blinker wasn’t blinking—in the video you clearly see that it was blinking.”
Adding further to Coronado’s comments, Land mentioned “not only is he the victim of an unlawful stop, he is also the victim of excessive almost deadly use of force and now he’s a victim of the criminal justice system.”
She added “that system wants to hold him accountable through deceptive practices for something he did not even do.”
Savala’s family wants to spread awareness for his case, in hopes that the deputies involved are investigated and are given the proper justice they deserve.
Aside from being detained with false accusations and facing a large bail amount, Savala is also having to deal with an indifferent public defender.
Coronado expressed her frustration by stating that the public defender “doesn’t call him back, she doesn’t call me, we’re trying to get access to any information so we can fight for my son.”
Savala’s family is now looking to cover the cost of a private lawyer. You can contribute to Savala’s GoFundMe page to help his family hire a lawyer that will give the proper attention to his case and help him reunite with his loving family.
Despite his difficult situation, Savala is “just glad to be alive right now, I have three kids, I’m glad my story is going out.” He said that, as a survivor of police brutality, he hopes his story will prevent cases like his from ever happening again.
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
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