Tensions between Sacramento police and residents continued to boil over the weekend after a Sacramento County sheriff’s vehicle struck a woman protesting the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark in his own backyard.
The Sacramento community has staged days of protests over the death of Clark, whom two Sacramento police officers shot in the back 7 times, according to an independent autopsy. The incident on Sunday, which critics are calling a “hit-and-run,” adds yet another investigation into the mix and could worsen the already strained relationship between law enforcement and the community.
Video from the scene — taken by Guy Danilowitz, a lawyer who attended the protest to document any issues — shows officers in two Sacramento County sheriff’s police cruisers, with their sirens and lights on, telling about two dozen protesters who surrounded the vehicles to “back away.” The protesters don’t immediately disperse and continue to shout, “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.”
When the cruisers begin to move, a woman emerges between them and hits the ground rolling after one of the cruisers strikes her.
The Sacramento Bee and the State Hornet later identified the woman as 61-year-old Wanda Cleveland. She was transported to a hospital where she was treated for injuries in her right leg and arm, and the back of her head.
“He never even stopped,” Cleveland told the Sacramento Bee while at the hospital. “It was a hit and run. If I did that, I’d be charged. It’s disregard for human life.”
The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department said in a press release on Sunday morning that protesters were pounding and kicking the cars.
“As one of the Sheriff’s Deputies was driving, a collision occurred involving the Sheriff’s patrol vehicle and a protester who was walking in the roadway,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote in their statement. “The collision occurred while the patrol vehicle was traveling at slow speeds.”
None of the deputies appeared to circle back to the woman, whom fire and rescue personnel took to the hospital in an ambulance, the Washington Post reported. The incident is also a potential violation of state law that dictates drivers must “immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident” and help arrange medical attention, according to the Post.
If the vehicle had a working dash camera, it would have begun automatically recording when the vehicle’s emergency lights were turned on. But the sheriff’s department hasn’t said anything about releasing the footage. After Clark’s shooting, the Sheriff’s Department released footage from the helicopters they provided to the Sacramento Police Department after just three days.
In a statement released after the incident, the sheriff’s department also didn’t explain why the vehicle started moving with a protester in front or why the deputies appear to have left the scene of the accident without checking on the woman. The sheriff’s department is now conducting an internal review of the incident, and the California Highway Patrol is also investigating the collision. The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While a deputy from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department — not the Sacramento Police Department — hit Cleveland, the incident could inflame tensions between police in the city and the community. Protests visibly worsened after the hit and run, and enough people took to the streets to block off access for drivers, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Sgt. Vance Chandler, a public information officer for the Sacramento Police Department, told VICE News that the department will “continue to be as transparent as possible, building trust and relationships.” He added that there is “no indication yet of how this incident has had any impact” on the Sacramento Police Department’s relationship with residents.
Cover image: Demonstrators face off with California Highway Patrol officers as they protest the police shooting of Stephon Clark, in Sacramento, California, U.S., March 30, 2018. (REUTERS/Bob Strong)