By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
“The sh–‘s got to stop.”
Joe Berry “JB” Powell only said a few words, but managed to reflect the mood of those gathered at a rally at the State Capitol last Wednesday in support of his daughter, Nakia Porter. The family has gone public about an August 2020 incident involving Solano County Sheriff’s deputies that left Porter unconscious, led to her arrest and left her whole family dealing with emotional scars.
“We did nothing wrong,” Powell said. “My grandchildren should not have witnessed what happened to their mother.”
The family filed a federal lawsuit against the Solano County Sheriff’s Department late last month, accusing two deputies — Dalton McCampbell and Lisa McDowell — of beating Porter, and alleging the department hid video footage from dash and body cameras. Their attorney, Yasin M. Almadani, and local community leaders are calling for the deputies to be fired, Sheriff Thomas A. Ferrara to step down, and for independent investigations by the California Attorney General and the Department of Justice.
Ossama Kamel, a rally organizer and civil rights advocate for the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said they’re “simple and rational requests.” Kamel says supporters will be ferocious in their various political and social strategies to get justice for Porter and her family.
“We will not rest until the rational demands for human dignity, racial, economic, gender and class justice are a reality. We will not rest or let up or slow down until there are protections for the most vulnerable amongst us,” he said.
Porter describes pulling over off a freeway ramp in Dixon on August 6, 2020, to change positions with her father because she had been driving for an extended period. There were also three children, all under the age of six in the car: two of Porter’s three children, and a niece.
“We were simply switching drivers,” recalls Porter, 33, who lives locally in Orangevale and teaches at Afro-centric youth programs in Sacramento.
“In the process of doing that, the police officers come asking questions,” she continued. “I don’t have anything to hide, I’m not doing anything wrong. We’re just switching drivers. Can I continue? Can we keep doing that? Somewhere they escalate the situation beyond that and I’m utterly confused. OK, I’m complying. You want me to get back into the car? OK, let me do that. I don’t make it. I’m complying to get back in the car and I do not make it.”
Dr. Tecoy Porter, who serves as senior pastor of Genesis Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Sacramento Chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, was also among those speaking at the rally.
“Unfortunately, such acts of police brutality continue to happen to people who look like us. I am outraged, tired, and you’ve heard it, disappointed; but mostly I’m embarrassed,” said Rev. Porter, who is no relation to Nakia Porter.
“I’m embarrassed because it is obvious that even after a George Floyd, after a Breanna Taylor, and here in our own Sacramento, a Stephon Clark, and the landmark police reform laws that our legislature has passed in response to these tragic and unnecessary deaths, that we still have a problem.”
“Even after all the marching and protests against this very issue of police violence and over the use-of-force, our beloved California still has this issue,” Rev. Porter said. “My question is, when is enough enough? When do we start to admit that there are just not some bad apples in our law enforcement system, but that there is something wrong with the tree, especially when it comes to the policing and use-of-force practices for Black and brown Californians?”
Rev. Porter was joined by another member of the clergy, Rev. Kevin Kintrell Ross of Unity of Sacramento church. At one point Rev. Ross spoke directly to Ms. Porter.
“I want you to know that you are seen. You are a part of us. We stand with you,” said Rev. Ross, who was arrested by Sacramento police officers along with at least 80 other protesters in 2019 at a Stephon Clark rally in the affluent Fabulous 40s East Sacramento neighborhood.
“Oftentimes in moments like this, the victimized are dehumanized,” Rev. Ross said. “It is time for us to humanize the traumatized. Somehow we have become desensitized to this, Jim Crow-style sundown towns, and beatings by reckless law enforcement officers in the state of California. Our ancestors and our contemporaries continue to fight, bleed and die, to ensure that we can have safe passage through the streets that our tax dollars pay for.”
“Because our skin is chocolate and mocha, and brown and everything else, does not qualify and make us candidates and targets for hate crimes, we should be able to drive these streets and change seats in a vehicle without having our lives changed forever by those who have been called to serve and protect,” he continued.
The Solano County Sheriff’s Department said Almadani’s team only released edited versions of the video footage which don’t tell the complete story. It then released full-length videos “as a vital means of maintaining transparency.”
According to the Department, deputies were parked, handling an unrelated service call when they saw Porter’s silver SUV turn onto the road they were on and drive towards them before making a U-turn in front of their patrol vehicles. They initiated a traffic stop and observed that there were different plates on her car: one from California and one from her native Maryland. Porter and Powell said they were switching places at this point.
“Deputies told the driver to get back in the vehicle multiple times which she refused to do,” reads the Department’s statement, summarizing the interaction.
“As the driver was being detained, she resisted the deputies, slipped her right hand out of her handcuffs, and struck a deputy in the face,” the statement continues.
This part is not clear in the released video, but a deputy can be heard asking the other how Porter got loose from the handcuffs and telling the other to double cuff her as a result.
When paramedics arrive, Deputy McCampbell is heard telling them that Porter was only out for 20 seconds. He also told them that she walked to their patrol car, even though she was still knocked out at that point. Porter says she was dragged and that chunks of her hair, which she wore in locs at the time, were yanked out. There is also a point in the video where McCampbell goes back to the patrol vehicle to check on her and he is heard saying, “I don’t know if she’s conscious.”
Leaders say Porter is lucky to be alive to tell what happened to her, as many of late, haven’t had the same opportunity. The discrepancies must be answered for, they say.
“This small, petite, bright, young professional woman was beaten unconscious and then they call the ambulance and make a statement that she was only out for a few seconds,” said Betty Williams, president of the Greater Sacramento NAACP. “The video indicates that she was out much longer than that. They dragged her on the concrete to the front while she’s unconscious, then she is jailed for a number of hours on a felony charge. She did nothing wrong.”
Williams called Solano County “the new Mississippi,” adding that the branch consistently receives complaints from Sacramento residents about being “beaten up and threatened” while traveling through the County.
“If you’re going through Solano County, Black people, be well aware. If you have to stop for anything late at night, early in the morning or during the day, and you are approached by Solano sheriff’s, you need to be aware. You need to have your cameras on and be ready because regardless, you … can be accosted by the Solano sheriff,” Williams said.
The local NAACP is investigating whether or not there is a pattern of behavior with the deputies involved. There’s also concern, Ms. Williams said, about a militia group called Three Percenters.
“It’s a group like the KKK, that’s rising up and it’s all in the Solano County area. We feel that it’s built within the Sheriff’s Department. That’s why we’re saying police cannot police themselves. We are calling on an investigation from the Attorney General, Department of Justice, FBI, everyone involved to look into this case.”
Earlier this year, the Benecia Chapter of Black Lives Matter called on Ferrara to weed out members of his department who have supported the Three Percenters. He answered by saying that the FBI found no merit to claims of racist or criminal behavior on the part of his deputies.
Powell says the family has been in therapy since the August 2020 incident. Porter said it left her in a “sunken place.” It took her more than a year to be able to do so, she says, but speaking on it helps.
“There’s people on the job being bullied. There’s people in school that are being bullied that don’t think that they can speak up. I said enough is enough. I need to share my story. I’m going to speak up so it can empower others to share their story.”