By: Nicole Knauer
SACRAMENTO, CA – On January 15, 2021, Kershawn Geyger was shot and killed by a Sacramento County sheriff’s gang unit detective outside the Crestview North Apartments at a traffic stop. His brother, JW Geiger, was in the passenger seat and witnessed the fatal incident firsthand. Geyger was father to two children and worked as an electrician and carpenter. He was 25 years old at the time of his death. Two suits are being filed at the start of this year: one by the Geyger’s parents, and the other by Geyger’s brother.
Geyger’s parents, Yaphette and Jethro Geiger, originally engaged with the sheriff’s office hoping to get clarity on this tragedy and to hold the department accountable. The Geiger family advocates for respect and justice for their community in such mistakes, and is hoping this lawsuit will bring about necessary change.
Instead of justice, the suit states, “the County and Sheriff’s [Office] has displayed a clear carelessness and lack of remorse for the violent misconduct of deputies.”
In response to the vagueness with which this tragedy happened, and the reluctance from the department’s end to release details and footage of the shooting, Kershawn’s family decided to file a suit this year, and held a press conference this Monday.
In the suit, the Geigers and their lawyer demanded more information from authorities about Kershawn’s death, and are asking the Sacramento sheriff’s department to release the names of the deputies involved. The suit is valued at 100 million dollars. JW Geiger filed a second suit alleging a violation of constitutional rights and the detective’s intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit was served on Friday, and due to it being a federal lawsuit, the sheriff’s office and Sacramento County are required to respond by January 28, 2022.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the sheriff’s department blamed Kershawn’s death on the victim’s own behavior, claiming that Kershawn fired at a detective and hit him in his abdomen, under his protective vest. JW Geiger, Kershawn’s brother and passenger in Kershawn’s vehicle, claims this never happened.
According to the officers recounting the incident, they began following Geyger after surveillance video showed him firing shots at a local parking lot where many others were present, including children. The sheriff’s deputies located Geyger and another man, his brother, and approached their vehicle. Originally, both men complied with the officers but, once the officers came closer to the men, they saw that Geyger was armed and shouted “gun, gun, gun!” At this point, the sheriff’s department says, Geyger fired his weapon and injured the officer.
According to the officers, in response, they fired back and fatally wounded Geyger. Although the deputy responsible for this shooting has not been quoted for the press, spokesperson Sergeant Kionna Rowe has been interacting with the media. The footage of the incident is not being released to the public, despite claims that body cameras were present on the officers involved.
This story, according to eyewitnesses of the event, is inaccurate and has triggered protests and frustration with the sheriff’s office. Nathalie Meza Contreras, one of the Geigers’ family lawyers, says the aim of the suit is to seek justice and get answers. Contreras states that there was evidence that Kershawn’s hands were up at the time of the shooting, and that there were no visible signs of a weapon. Contreras bases her claims according to recounts made by Geyger’s brother, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Kershawn’s vehicle. Without footage released to the public and to the Geiger family, it is impossible to prove or disprove the events leading up to the shooting.
Tanya Faison, representing Black Lives Matter Sacramento, adds that even with the evidence presented by the Sacramento sheriff’s office, there is no justification in killing Kershawn. “Nothing justifies killing him,” Faison said. “He should have had his day in court if he broke a law. That’s what our system is set up to do.”
The sheriff’s department released a thirteen minute re-enactment video outlining the incident of Kershawn’s fatal shooting, and the events leading up to it.
Community advocate Berry Accius, CEO at Voice of the Youth, described community response to the video with “we just cannot sit back on a narrative that’s given to us by Sac Sheriff… What we wanted, what we hoped, is that there would be some transparency. You cannot give a re-enactment and give it to the community and expect them to say, ‘Ok. Case closed.’”