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Family of 12-year-old boy forcefully arrested and covered with spit mask file claim against Sacramento

A video of Sacramento police officers and a security guard forcing a 12-year-old boy to the ground and placing a “spit mask” over his head went viral.
A video of Sacramento police officers and a security guard forcing a 12-year-old boy to the ground and placing a “spit mask” over his head went viral.
(Sacramento Police Department )

Attorneys representing the family of a 12-year-old boy who was forcefully arrested in April have filed a claim against the city of Sacramento, Sacramento Police Department and the involved officers.

Attorneys Mark T. Harris and Dale K. Galipo filed the claim Friday morning, alleging that the boy was arrested without probable cause and that the city and police department were negligent; caused the boy, his sister and his mother emotional distress; and failed to properly train its officials. The attorneys are seeking more than $100,000 in damages.

Representatives for the city of Sacramento did not respond to requests for comment.

The next step, Harris said, is to file a lawsuit against the city of Sacramento, the Sacramento Police Department, the Paladin security company and the restaurant Wienerschnitzel, which he expects to do in less than 18 months.

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Isaiah Brown was cited with two misdemeanors of suspicion of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest after the incident in question, which occurred on the evening of April 21, according to the claim. With a push from Tanya Faison, founder of a local chapter of Black Lives Matter, a video of the incident surfaced a month later, and the police department released body camera footage on May 22.

The video showed then-11-year-old Isaiah being forced to the ground by police. Officials said that the boy allegedly spat on the officers, and police placed a “spit mask” over his head before he was arrested.

Marcus Basquez, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, told The Times in May that officers appropriately used the spit mask to protect themselves and defuse the situation.

According to Basquez, the boy had been asking for money at businesses in the area of Del Paso Boulevard and El Camino Avenue and was asked to leave several times. A security guard tried to stop the boy, but he ran away, he said.

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Police officers stopped to help the security guard detain the boy.

In the viral video, the boy can be heard saying, “You ain’t got no right to be doing this…. Come on now, come on now. What is you doing? Yeah, I spit on you….What you going to do?”

One of the officers responds, “You’re going to go to juvie now, dude,” and asks a colleague for a spit mask after she said the boy spat on her three times.

Another officer says, “He is just a little terrorizer.”

Isaiah and his family are “not well” and have since moved out of Sacramento for fear of their safety, Harris said.

Harris said in May that the boy was actually attending an Easter Sunday carnival in the area, not panhandling. He said the boy was asked by an adult guardian to go to their car to get more money, and encountered the security guard in front of a Walgreen’s.

The guard chased him to a Wienerschnitzel parking lot, where an employee “tackled” the boy, Harris said. Then, the Sacramento officers arrived.

According to the claim, Isaiah had calmed down when the bag was placed over his head, and he repeatedly asked to be let go and told the officers he could not breathe. When his mother, Latoya Downs, arrived, she told officers the boy suffers from an upper respiratory disease and she worried he would have breathing difficulties.

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“When I asked what was going through his mind, he said, ‘I thought I was going to die,’ ” Harris said. “He didn’t want to go inside to the police car because he thought ‘I would never come out.’”

The claim is Harris’ latest legal action against Sacramento law enforcement. Harris has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Stephon Clark, who was shot by police and whose death sparked protests in the Sacramento area.

In September, Sacramento paid a $2.4-million settlement to Clark’s two sons.

“This is not without substance,” he said. “This is a big problem for our community.”

Sgt. Sabrina Briggs, a spokeswoman with the Sacramento Police Department, said that “we’re in the same position” as in April and that the police officers involved were acting within policy. She said it would be premature to comment on the matter, since the department has not yet received the claim.


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