A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy struck a protester with his patrol SUV as she and others gathered in the street to denounce the killing of Stephon Clark, then left the scene, according to video of the incident.
The incident Saturday night threatens to exacerbate an already tense relationship between police and protesters in California’s capital. Observers say the deputy struck the woman at a high rate speed of speed, while authorities say the vehicle was moving slowly and the deputy was responding to a dangerous situation created by some of the demonstrators.
“This is their response to a community in outrage and pain; this is just another glaring example of the reckless nature of Sacramento law enforcement,” said Tanya Faison, founder of Black Lives Matter’s Sacramento chapter, which did not organize the event but has been vocal about Clark’s killing.
“We will continue to demand justice for not just Stephon, but for all lives that have been unjustly taken at the hands of law enforcement.”
During a vigil, a woman carrying a “Stephon Clark Rest in Power” sign walked in front of a sheriff’s vehicle and motioned the driver to stop, according to a video from the National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers. The deputy then drove away, said Guy Danilowitz, a legal observer who recorded the video.
“The vehicle accelerated and struck her, accelerated very fast and struck her violently and she fell to the ground,” Danilowitz said. “It was a very fast acceleration, not the way you would move with people around.”
The woman suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
About eight seconds before the collision, a deputy inside the SUV was heard over a loudspeaker repeatedly telling protesters, “Back away from my car.”
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said protesters approached the vehicle and “began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicle’s exterior.”
“The collision occurred while the patrol vehicle was traveling at slow speeds,” said spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton. He said the deputy’s vehicle had scratches, dents and a shattered rear window following the collision.
“The damage to the vehicle was not a result of the collision involving the pedestrian but was caused by vandals in the crowd,” Hampton said.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident but would not confirm whether it is being classified as a hit and run, a spokesman said.