By Crescenzo Vellucci
The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Monday strongly criticized the shooting death of what appeared to be a distraught man Aug. 15 on a Regional Transit train by Sacramento City Police.
The NAACP—declaring the “incident (had) a predictable outcome. It was not an accident”—demanded an “independent investigation” of the police killing of Dante Day, a 44-year-old Black man, after he displayed a knife on the largely unoccupied train.
Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams, said, “We’re demanding an independent investigation into the death of Dante Day,” adding “we implore our city leaders to continue to provide support and compassion for those battling with mental health conditions.”
Witnesses on the train called 911 but did not confirm Day was threatening anyone, noting only, “He’s holding it (the knife) in the air.”
But police, according to the video, apparently treated their encounter differently, although Day was sitting calmly by himself on the train. Day died in a hail of police bullets minutes after police intervened.
The NAACP said they had “learned” another 911 caller “informed dispatch that Mr. Day asked for assistance and needed care—an important fact that was not made public.”
The NAACP statement also noted that “there was an individual who remained on the light rail with Mr. Day. When officers opened the door, the individual sat calmly, not too far from Mr. Day, and they both were in a relaxed posture as the doors opened.”
NAACP added, “The Greater Sacramento NAACP believes that the civilian should have been escorted from the train, secured train exits, and waited for a mental health team, because at that time, there were no exhibited aggressions or verbal threats to the officers or the community.”
Instead, SPD officers engaged Day, claiming, as seen on the video, they didn’t want to hurt him, but were pointing weapons at him as Day appeared to be pleading for help from “God.”
“Mr. Day, clearly overwhelmed with fear of the police officer, and without aggression, eventually stood up. The immediate response was police releasing pellets (firing “other than lethal” bean bags), Mr. Day moved forward, again appearing to be despondent with fear, and the police shot him,” explained the NAACP.
“Mr. Day was killed because of a lack of de-escalation tactics used by the Sacramento Police Department and lack of on-the-scene psychological intervention and care,” the group charged.
“Mental health is a major concern throughout the state of California. In this case, Mr. Day was not provided with the compassionate holistic response promised by Sacramento PD. Officers approached him with their guns drawn and, when given the opportunity, they used lethal means to end the encounter. We often hear phrases like, ‘the officers feared for their lives.’ However, are they trained that every shot should be a kill shot? Do they not have shields that could protect them from a knife encounter?” said the NAACP.
The NAACP, in its statement, added, “Many communities, especially the Black community, share the same sentiments as Mr. Day about the police (when he said, as seen on the video): ‘I’m scared of y’all, bro.’”
“We have an overarching issue, here in Sacramento, and that is the way we police members of our community battling mental unhealth. Policing and jailing people who are ill is inhumane. Investing in community-based care, continuing to invest and build mobile crisis support teams throughout the region–988, and providing continuity of care should be investments our City and County should prioritize over investments in law enforcement,” the NAACP argued.