The Sacramento Police Department is again facing accusations of police brutality after a video of officers and a security guard forcing a 12-year-old boy to the ground and placing a “spit mask” over his head went viral.
The Police Department is not investigating the officers involved. The boy, Isaiah, has been charged with two misdemeanors of suspicion of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, according to police spokesman Marcus Basquez. The battery charge involved spitting on officers.
The department responded to the viral video on Monday, and released the officers’ body camera footage of the incident.
“Our officers involved in this incident appropriately used a spit mask to protect themselves and defuse the situation,” Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “I am grateful that our officers were willing to proactively intervene when they observed suspicious activity, and that nobody was injured during this encounter.”
Attorney Mark Harris, who is representing Isaiah’s family, condemned the police officers and the private security officer involved for using excessive force against the minor. The family is not yet filing a claim with the city or a lawsuit, he said, but are demanding the Police Department apologize and drop the charges.
Isaiah suffered something “no young person should have to go through,” Harris said in the video released last week. “He was accosted, chased down and all kinds of things happened to him…. We want to make sure that the greater Sacramento community, the state of California and the world is aware of what happened to this young man, who was doing nothing more than trying to enjoy the benefits of a neighborhood carnival.”
Tensions between the black community and the Sacramento Police Department have escalated since 2018, when an unarmed man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, was shot by police 20 times in his own backyard. In January, the state’s Department of Justice published 49 recommendations for the Sacramento Police Department’s use-of-force policies following Clark’s death.
The latest incident has caused alarm within the black community.
“There is still no trust or accountability,” said Sonia Lewis, a member of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter. “The Police Department continues to engage with different rules of engagement for black folks. He wouldn’t have been spitting on anyone if handcuffs were not placed on him, if he hadn’t been chased down and treated like an animal instead of a human being with dignity.”
According to Basquez, the incident began when a guard with Paladin Private Security chased Isaiah to the area of Del Paso Boulevard and El Camino Avenue about 7:45 p.m. on April 28. The security guard told police that the boy had been asking for money at businesses and was asked to leave several times, Basquez said, but the boy’s family disputes he was panhandling.
The security guard tried to stop the boy, but he ran away, and patrolling officers stopped to help the security guard detain Isaiah after the guard pursued him to a nearby parking lot.
In the viral video that began circulating this month, the boy can be seen clinging to the security guard’s leg, his arms held behind his back, as officers try walking him to a patrol vehicle. They handcuff him, and one officer appears to wipe her face.
The boy can be heard saying, “Yeah, I spit on y’all. How do you like that ...?”
When Isaiah wouldn’t get in the patrol vehicle, the officers pushed him to the ground and placed the mask over his head.
In the background, children call Isaiah’s name and tell him to stay on the ground and stop resisting. The man who recorded the video angrily argued with officers for almost 30 minutes.
“If he’s just asking people to buy things for him, why does it have to get this far?” the man asks.
In the body camera footage released by police, Isaiah can be heard cursing at officers and calling them racist.
“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?” he said.
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 he spit on her three times.
Another officer says, “He is just a little terrorizer.”
Harris, Isaiah’s attorney, had a different account of the events leading up to the detention. He asked the boy’s last name not be used because he is a minor.
Harris said Isaiah was attending an Easter Sunday carnival held next to a strip mall in Del Paso Heights, a largely Latino and black neighborhood in northern Sacramento with a history of tension with police.
Harris 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 Walgreen’s. Harris said the guard and Isaiah knew each other, and the guard attempted to take the car keys from the boy.
Isaiah ran, dodging across multiple lanes of a busy street as he was pursued by the guard into the parking lot of a Wienerschnitzel. An employee of that restaurant allegedly grabbed Isaiah and detained him, Harris said. The security guard arrived, and shortly after, two officers who regularly patrol the area stopped to assist, Harris said.
Harris said Isaiah resisted because he was afraid of police.
“It’s almost like the bogeyman, the way this kid felt about law enforcement,” he said.
Harris contends that Isaiah broke no laws before the pursuit, adding that he is troubled that the minor has been charged for resisting without being charged with a crime that could have necessitated the pursuit and arrest.
“For them to have no underlying crime at all, and have the kid subjected to that ... is horrible,” he said. “If he’s found guilty, that’s another piece of lint on this boy’s record that he has to face as he enters adulthood that he shouldn’t.”
Reyes-Velarde reported from Los Angeles, Chabria from Sacramento.