SOUTH SACRAMENTO – Prominent artist and educator Shonna McDaniels says her two children are “traumatized” after being pulled over by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office’s Gang Task Force in South Sacramento last week and treated roughly.
Ms. McDaniels, the founder of the Sojourner Truth Multicultural Museum and Sacramento’s annual Banana Festival, vowed to take legal action during a press conference held at a local light rail station near where her son, Kelshon Keys, 22, and daughter Nasara Keys, 13, were pulled over last Thursday. At her request, she says, her son had picked up his sister from school on his way home from work. At around 3:00 p.m. near Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and 24th Street, her daughter noticed a car following them closely but initially thought little of it.
“My son kept driving and eventually the unmarked car flashed lights. He still kept going because he was unaware of who they were; as far as he was concerned they could have been the KKK for this is the climate we live in,” Ms. McDaniels shared.
Upon pulling over in a safe place, the family says, members of the gang unit jumped out of their vehicle with guns drawn and proceed to pull Kelson Keys from his car. A tearful Nasara Keys screamed out and despite participating in classes on what not to do if ever pulled over by the police, she reached for her phone to call Ms. McDaniels.
“This is not abnormal for a child to forget. She is a child and only human in the face of terror,” her mom shared.
Ms. McDaniels says the deputies snatched the phone out of her daughter’s hand and “grabbed her out of the car roughly and placed her hands behind her back.” Both Keys were searched. Nasara Keys recently had surgery and has six stitches in her hand, which Ms. McDaniels says were agitated during the altercation.
“My heart is just broken knowing that my child could have lost her life just that quickly by reaching for her phone and they would have justified it by saying they thought she had a gun,” she continued.
Ms. McDaniels recounted the incident, flanked by local supporters, artists and activists, including Minister Imhotep Alkebulan of Wo’se Church, Cleo Cartel, founder of the local Marcus Garvey Festival, Berry Accius of Voice of the Youth and Don’t Shoot Our Future Down, and Black Lives Matter Sacramento leader Tanya Faison.
“They said the stop was because his license plates showed an expired date, but if they would have run his plates they would have known his car was fully registered and has full insurance, which is why they ultimately let him go, but without any apology,” Ms. McDaniels said.
Kelshon Keys was not arrested or cited for anything.
“After complaining to their department, an officer called me about the stop and informed me that because my son didn’t stop he was assumed to be a ‘common criminal, gang banger or someone with something to hide. My son is neither of the assumptions but a hard working young man who works a full time and part-time job. He should never have been victimized by the Sheriff’s Department,” Ms. McDaniels said.
Ms. Faison says Sacramento’s Black neighborhoods are “over policed,” with areas like Meadowview and Oak Park seeing the frequent presence from multiple jurisdictions, including the Sheriff’s Department, the Sacramento Police Department, UC Davis Medical Center police and security from the McGeorge School of Law.
Ms. McDaniel’s husband, Kelly Keys agrees.
“There’s a lot that happens over here that (most of Sacramento) doesn’t know about.”
Keys says it’s not uncommon to see officers driving up and down the street repeatedly, pulling up on people and looking into cars.
“People catch cases for a little bit of nothing all the time, all day long. In this community, and in Oak Park and Fruitridge, you’ll catch them doing all kinds of stuff. Some of them think they’re above the law,” Keys said of law enforcement.
Keys recalls past incidents where he was harassed by local officers, some recent and others dating as far back as his pre-teen years. As the father of a young Black male, he says, he’s also had conversations with his son about how to react. Ms. McDaniels says her son is often profiled because of his skin tone and because he wears his hair in locks.
“People have to start speaking up and people have start showing up, letting these people know that you can’t do this to their families. We’re not back in the 60s when we were waiting for rights. We have rights,” he continued.
In addition to filing a lawsuit, Ms. McDaniels says the she plans to join Black Lives Matter Sacramento’s Cop Watch effort to “police the police.”
“We’re going to be following them,” Ms. Faison shared.
“We must be intentional about keeping a close watch on SacPD and the Sheriff’s Department when they pull over Black and brown families. A minor traffic stop should never lead to people being victimized and terrorized by those who are hired to protect and serve,” Ms. McDaniels said.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Writer
Photo By Larry Dalton