By Crescenzo Vellucci
The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – It took a lawsuit and nearly three years, but it appears the family of Darell Richards and the community may soon have many of the answers sought in the shooting by police of Richards on Sept. 6, 2018 – Black Lives Matter Sacramento called it a “murder.”
Nineteen-year-old Richards was shot repeatedly after allegedly pointing a pellet gun at SWAT officers. That evidence was never forthcoming.
And now, according to a ruling by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Steven M. Gevercer announced this week, the city of Sacramento violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to produce complete records – including video/photos and documents – after city police killed Richards in a hail of gunfire.
A lawsuit by several media outlets resulted in the release of more than 800 pages of documents originally, and Gevercer’s ruling Aug. 13 meant additional documents will be made public no later than Sept. 13.
Black Lives Matter and the Richards family always had big doubts about the claims by police.
“Video was released and like always, we have more questions than answers. Not one thing in the video validated the narrative of the Sacramento Police Department. They are killing someone new every three months, but this does not slow us down. It only makes us fight harder. It needs to end now,” Tanya Faison of BLM Sacramento told The Vanguard in 2018 right after Richards’ death.
She added, “The Sacramento Police Department recently created a policy around using more forms of non-lethal force to de-escalate situations. They claim to have done this [in this instance]. They claim to have even used a K-9. My question is how come the K-9 couldn’t catch a 19-year-old hiding in a backyard?
“We do not believe their narrative. There are tons of holes in the story, and we are going to make sure the community knows the truth. We are tired of adding names to our long list of people killed at the hands of local law enforcement. It has to stop.”
It looks like BLM was right all along, even according to the words of the city.
City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said the city wouldn’t fight the judge’s ruling, and admits the city took too long to comply with a public records request.
“As the city has stated before, fulfilling this public records request has taken longer than it should have, in part because of challenges created by how certain information was collected, processed and archived prior to the passage of SB 1421. Moving forward, the city remains committed to improving and strengthening its internal systems and to sharing information as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Wood said.
Under California’s “Right to Know Act,” per SB 1421, which Legislature OK’d in 2018, law enforcement agencies must release records related to the investigation and discipline of police officers when officers use force that results in serious injury or death, commit sexual assault on a member of the public, or engage in dishonesty in certain situations.
Apparently trying to find a way around the law, many agencies refused to comply with SB 1421, falsely claiming it did not apply retroactively before it took effect in 2019. The courts disagreed.
The Sacramento Bee said it filed a request on Sept. 25, 2020 for “Any and all records from the use-of-force investigation into the actions of officers Todd Edgerton and Patrick Cox, regarding the shooting of Darell Richards in 2018.”
The Bee complains the city withheld the documents for about seven months, before releasing a seven-page administrative review, but did not release 700 pages from a June 2020 report that included statements from relatives and witnesses, law enforcement reports, forensic and autopsy information.
The city, said the Bee, then released another 876 pages, including hundreds of photographs, to its website after the Bee’s lawsuit.
But the city redacted other documents – that it now must provide by Sept. 13 – including photographs of Richards, and the two officers who shot Richards.