To Protect and Serve or to Terrorize Children? Sacramento Police Department Under Fire Again

In the 14 months that have passed since Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet gunned down 22-year-old Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, the Sacramento Police Department has not managed to stay out of the headlines with negative news stories. Chief Daniel Hahn was purported to be ushering in a new day at the department, but what progress has really been made? How has the department made strides in rehabilitating its relationship with the community it serves?

If this latest news item is any indication, there has been no progress at all.

On April 29, a 12-year-old named Isaiah was out to have a little bit of fun at a neighborhood carnival with his sister and an adult chaperone. The chaperone instructed Isaiah to go back to the car and retrieve more change for them to use at the carnival and that is when things went horribly wrong.

Mark Harris, an attorney with Benjamin Crump Law who representing Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs, told The Root that as Isaiah was returning from the car and heading back to the carnival, he was accosted by a white private security guard employed with the firm Paladin Security. Harris describes Paladin as a “mercenary group” for the police, and said they work in tandem with the police in various markets. He said the guard in question is the man who chases the neighborhood kids away from the neighborhood shopping center. Harris says the security guard and Isaiah have history.

Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs  Photo: Attorney Mark Harris

Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs

Photo: Attorney Mark Harris

“Paladin Security is a private security company that specializes in ‘urban’ environments. They are headquartered in Canada, but they operate in 17 U.S. cities,” Harris said.

As Isaiah walked back from the car, the guard called him by name and stopped him to ask if he was stealing the car or stealing from the car. Isaiah showed the guard that he was in possession of the keys for the vehicle and attempted to continue on his way.

He was impeded by the guard, who, according to Harris, told Isaiah “You know you don’t have those keys legitimately” and tried to take them from him. It was at this point that Isaiah ran from him and tried to get back to his family at the carnival.

As Isaiah ran past Wienerschnitzel, a random white employee of the hot dog chain decided to involve himself and grabbed Isaiah for the guard.

Harris said that once police arrived, a crowd formed, and Isaiah’s sister noticed what was going on. She brought over the adult chaperone who tried to ask police why Isaiah was being detained. Throughout the video, Isaiah can be heard asking the same question. He also repeatedly asks for his mother to be called.

Officers can be heard in the video telling Isaiah to stop resisting, and at one point, an officer tells him “You’re just a little terrorizer.”

When they attempted to put him in the car, Isaiah resisted. When Harris later asked him why, Isaiah’s response was simple.

He said he was afraid that if he got in the police car, he would never get back out.

Harris told The Root that at one point the police had Isaiah on the ground with his face down in the asphalt and a knee in his back. Harris does not deny that Isaiah spit on one of the officers.

But was that reason enough to put a spit hood on him? Did it really take that many police officers to control a 12-year-old?

Isaiah has been charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

Harris said that what happened in the video is “a clear example of what police officers do quite often.”

The attorney said that the city, Wienerschnitzel and Paladin Security may all face civil liability in the incident.

The Root has reached out to the Sacramento Police Department for comment, and will update this story should they respond.