An ongoing feud between Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and Black Lives Matter activist Tanya Faison has gone public, with Jones questioning her credibility and community leaders defending her approach.
Jones issued a four-paragraph statement Thursday ahead of a planned protest by Black Lives Matter Sacramento outside his office. That came after an exchange of combative letters in recent weeks.
On June 28, the organization issued a list of 10 demands related to fatal officer-involved incidents involving Mikel McIntyre and Ryan Ellis, as well as a traffic stop of Patricia Hill in which BLM says deputies broke her eye socket. The group sought public records such as video footage and police reports. But it also demanded that the department fire the deputies involved and that they be prosecuted for “abuse” and “murder.”
On July 10, Jones fired back with a letter directed at Faison, saying she has “mendacious versions of reality” and that “there are far more responsible, effective voices for the African American community here in Sacramento than you.” He implied that he would not work with Black Lives Matter Sacramento and instead look to other groups he considers more responsible.
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Faison told reporters Thursday morning that Jones’ response was “petty” and distracted from the group’s original request for information. She was joined by more than three dozen community activists.
“We are fighting for our freedom, and we are fighting for answers, and we are creative in our fight,” Faison said. “(Jones) doesn't get to tell black people who their leaders are.”
The feud stemmed from the June letter addressed to Jones, which included demands for information in connection to the officer-involved shooting of McIntyre in Rancho Cordova in May, and the in-custody death of Ellis, whom the Sheriff’s Department said died handcuffed when he jumped out of a moving patrol car as he was being transported to the Sacramento Main Jail. The group also wanted information from a third incident involving Hill, whom the group says faced excessive force by female deputies while in the county’s jail.
Their request demanded the release of the names of the deputies involved in all three incidents. Agencies are required to disclose such names when an on-duty, officer-involved shooting occurs.
It also included requests for body camera footage and police reports in all three of the incidents, as well as the creation of an oversight commission for the Sheriff’s Department. Additionally, the group called on Jones to prosecute the deputies involved in all three incidents.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento has been critical of Jones in the past, coordinating several protests against him during his run as a Republican congressional candidate last year. Jones on Thursday took particular issue with protests outside his home that he said were led by Faison.
“She has twice organized and hosted protests at my residence, screaming profanity and drawing chalk body outlines and inappropriate statements in the street, disturbing my neighbors and causing fear in my wife and children,” he wrote. “She has posted my home address online several times and entertained online comments about assaulting and killing police officers. She has posted online photos of my personal vehicles and license plates.”
He added that “Black Lives Matter as a nationwide movement can contribute an important voice and bring important issues to the forefront. With Ms. Faison as its spokesperson locally, however, the Sacramento chapter’s message will continue to be marginalized, and responsible and constructive discourse will be weakened.”
Many of the speakers present Thursday morning called Jones’ July 10 letter unprofessional and out of line.
“I cannot believe the tone he took for a valid request for information,” said Amreet Sandhu, president of the National Lawyers Guild, which represents local activists. “I have never, ever been spoken to by a public official that way.”
“The Sheriff does not and cannot determine who the black community leaders are, or who among our leaders are responsible,” said Donna Lynem, chair of the Sacramento Area Black Caucus.
In his Thursday statement, Jones said he did not intend to make the dispute between him and Faison a public matter, but he did not want to remain silent as his “department is attacked.” He included screen shots from Faison’s Facebook page, including one where she writes “F*** all cops.” He said, “There is nothing she will ever support about policing or police officers.”
“I have spent my entire career – including the last seven years as sheriff – making and maintaining relationships with EVERY community in Sacramento County, and will continue to do so,” Jones said in the statement.