A Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department vehicle struck a protester Saturday night during a vigil for Stephon Clark that began near a sheriff’s substation.
The California Highway Patrol says the incident occurred at approximately 8:45 p.m. in the area of the McDonald’s on Florin Road, near the Stockton Boulevard intersection.
According to eyewitnesses who spoke with Capital Public Radio, protesters approached two sheriff’s vehicles on Florin Road. The first vehicle was able to escape the crowd of protesters. The deputy driving the second vehicle tried to do the same but hit a pedestrian in front of the car while accelerating.
The woman is identified as Wanda Cleveland, a 61-year-old with a previous medical condition, reported The State Hornet.
Both vehicles immediately left the scene, which Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton attributed in part to “safety concerns” in a text message exchange with Capital Public Radio.
“As protesters approached both of the marked vehicles, they began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior,“ Hampton said in an emailed statement. After the collision, the vehicle’s back window shattered — “likely struck by a protester with an object,” Hampton texted.
California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Bradley said the CHP’s South Sacramento division is investigating the incident, and that the victim was transported with minor injuries to a hospital.
Hampton said the sheriff’s department is conducting an internal review of the incident.
A video posted on Twitter by Guy Danilowitz, a Sacramento County public defender and member of the National Lawyers Guild who was at the scene, appears to confirm the witnesses’ description of events.
Another video, posted on Facebook by Akashma Marivel Guzman, shows a sheriff’s SUV turning on its siren and repeatedly warning protesters to “back away from my vehicle” before the incident occurred.
At one point shortly after the incident, a sheriff’s helicopter announced from overhead that protesters could be subject to arrest for an unlawful assembly.
Later, the deputy who confirmed the incident told Capital Public Radio that the sheriff’s department had no interest in arresting protesters.
But then, after protesters blocked the intersection of 65th Street and Florin Road, the sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol assembled dozens of officers in riot gear to try and break up the crowd.
The protest disbursed after 11 p.m. Bradley said he was not aware of any arrests.
The vigil, organized by the ANSWER Coalition, took place nearly two weeks after Clark was shot by Sacramento police officers — and one day after an independent autopsy commissioned by Clark’s family found he was shot eight times, mostly in the back. Organizers said they chose to focus this protest on the sheriff’s department because it “directed Sac PD from their helicopter” as the officers chased Clark.
Clark was killed by two police officers on March 18. Law enforcement was responding to a call about vandalism in the area. Police followed Clark into a backyard — they did not realize it was at his grandparents’ home — and shot at him 20 times. Officers thought he had a gun, but only found a cell phone on him.
Although activists have protested nearly every day since Clark was shot — with sometimes multiple events each day — there has been little violence. The Sacramento Police Department has only arrested two protesters, and city leaders from Mayor Darrell Steinberg to Police Chief Daniel Hahn have sought to work with event organizers to prevent protests from escalating.
Saturday night’s vigil, however, was outside Sacramento city limits and therefore under sheriff’s department jurisdiction.