SACRAMENTO — They came from far as Manteca, Stockton, Vallejo, Oakland, and Los Angeles to tell the story of Stephon Clark. Ironically, they are family members of victims who had similar fates — loved ones that were killed during officer-involved shootings.
On the day of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., these passionate people participated in the National Day of Action held in front the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in downtown Sacramento.
Hosted by Black Lives Matter Sacramento in partnership with the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Network, more than 300 people were able to hear the anguish and pain from people who deal with the tragic loss of a person that was killed by a gun of a law enforcement agent.
They all came to support Clark’s family because the journey has started for members of his family, too. Antoinette Saddler said the community supporting itself is therapeutic. Her brother Angel Ramos was shot and killed by a Vallejo police officer last year.
Ramos was killed on the back porch of his mother’s house. Police claim he had a knife. The family says Ramos was defending himself while fighting another individual and the knife was taken from him before the fight began.
“It’s the support of the community that gets our families through it,” Ms. Saddler said. “I want to thank everyone who supports the Stephon Clark family. I was telling myself that I had to be here. I had to be here for the family.”
Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, also showed up at the event to offer his condolences and support. Johnson reminded the large crowd that it may seem impossible, but there is hope of a conviction when a police officer wrongly kills someone.
“We would’ve never gotten in the first time in California state history, an officer arrested, tried, and convicted,” Johnson said. “I want to be clear that we don’t count that as a victory because we know since the murder of Oscar Grant thousands of brothers have been murdered. But it is important that you stand with the families.”
Dionne Smith-Downs turned to the microphone to tell the tale of James Rivera, the 16-year-old that was shot 38 times by officers of the Stockton Police Department in 2010. In 2012, the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office ruled that the deadly use of force was justified in the Rivera case, alleging that he was driving a stolen van in reverse in an attempt to hit the officers.
The new DA, Tori Verber-Salazar, elected in 2014, publicly apologized to Ms. Smith-Downs, saying the DA under the previous leadership “failed” her and that the office did not handle the case properly.
Yolanda Banks Reed, the mother of Sahleem Tindle, 28, shared that her son was shot three by a BART officer in West Oakland in January. Police say Tindle was in a fight with another man and that he had a gun. Tindle was unarmed. The family says he was shot in the back.
The family of Ernest Duenez, Jr. reached a $2.2 million settlement with the City of Manteca’s insurance carrier. A dashcam video showed that a Manteca police officer fired 11 shots at Duenez in less than five seconds on June 8, 2011.
Duenez was trying to flee the vehicle he was riding in with his parents.The officer said he had a knife. Duenez died and the officer was later cleared of any wrongdoing or excessive force. The family claimed that the officer was more concerned about finding a knife on Duenez’s person than with getting him medical assistance.
Duenez’s mother Rosemary Duenez said such cases as these used to appear infrequently. But not anymore, she stated.
“It’s got to the point where it’s impossible to keep up. It’s happening all over the place,” Ms. Duenez said. “We have to make this stop. We have to keep them aware that we are not going to put up with this anymore.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer