Minority teens say police targeted them for removal from State Fair after fight

Two unrelated groups of ethnically diverse teenagers said they were racially profiled by California State Fair police on opening night prior to being kicked out, leaving one girl with a fractured thumb and a concussion from an encounter with officers.

The evictions of the teenagers came shortly after police broke up a minor brawl between at least two other unidentified teens that happened at about 9 p.m. Friday near the fair’s midway. The fair subsequently closed its gates an hour early.

California State Fair deputy general manager Margaret Mohr said she was unaware of any encounters or injuries involving police beyond that fight, but that all fair patrons are expected to abide by a code of conduct and that code is meant “for the safety of everyone who is in the fair.”

In the first incident, Shanita Minor, a 17-year-old student at Cosumnes Oaks High who was recently accepted to both UC Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, said she was standing with two friends near the carousel when bike officers approached her and told her she was not allowed to loiter or congregate.

“I said we’re not loitering and this isn’t a congregation,” said Minor, who’s in her school’s Gifted and Talented Education program. “They told us to leave and I said we’re not leaving because we paid to be here.”

Minor said the two police officers got off their bikes and followed her, grabbing her arm when she didn’t stop. In a video filmed by a bystander who wasn’t with Minor, three Cal Expo officers can be seen tackling Minor to the ground.

The three officers then kneel over the girl, and two appear to be putting their weight on Minor. Minor is 5 feet tall and weighs 114 pounds, according to information collected by the police.

Minor can be heard screaming and saying “I can’t move, I can’t move” as the officers try to put handcuffs on her. Minor said the officers threatened to use a Taser and near the end of the video, Minor says “f-----g Tase me, I f-----g dare you.”

“One held my head to the ground, another put their knee in my back,” Minor said. “My wrist was stuck underneath me when they tried to handcuff me, so they tried to grab it and hurt it more. They put me in handcuffs and picked me up by them.”

Minor said was held in a room at the State Fair for 30 minutes where she was questioned until her mother arrived. Cal Expo police cited Minor for resisting arrest.

Minor said she believed she was targeted in part because she is black.

“I don’t want to jump up and say race because that doesn’t do her any good,” said Sondra Minor, Shanita Minor’s mother. “But if she was white, they wouldn’t throw her to the ground. It doesn’t take four of them to take her to the ground.”

In an unrelated incident, 16-year-old Kasim Cooley said he also had an encounter with police that he believes was racial profiling.

Cooley, who attends Laguna Creek High School, said he was nearby when police broke up a fight between two teenagers. As police detained one of those teens, Cooley said he told the boy not to resist.

“I was telling the kid who was getting arrested to relax because you are just going to make it harder,” said Cooley.

Cooley said another officer began recording him on a hand-held camera, making him uncomfortable. Cooley said he moved away from the officer, who followed. At that point, Cooley said the officer called over more police and one “grabbed him and started pushing him” off fair premises.

“I was like, ‘Why am I getting kicked out?’ ” said Cooley. His five friends were also told to leave, he said.

Cooley said the officer told him he was being kicked out “because you were running with the others.”

He said the officers also told him they could “kick you out for anything we want.”

Adnan Baig, 15, and one of Cooley’s friends, took a video on his phone of Cal Expo police holding Cooley by his backpack and guiding him through the crowds.

Cooley, Baig and four of their friends were escorted outside the gates where police used their bicycles as a barricade to keep the kids from re-entering, Baig said.

“I feel it was racial profiling because I literally had nothing to do with (the fight), any of the fighting,” Cooley said. “They told us, ‘We’re trying to get the troublemakers out.’ 

Cal Expo police referred questions to State Fair administrators.

Mohr said police had no reports of injuries or arrests on Friday night, and had no knowledge of Minor’s altercation or Cooley’s eviction. She said she didn’t know if police tracked numbers of people it removes from fair premises. She also declined to say how many police officers the fair employs.

Minor provided The Sacramento Bee with a copy of her Notice to Appear which confirms she was cited for a misdemeanor resisting arrest by State Fair police, and her mother said she talked to police when she came to pick Minor up. Sondra Minor then took her daughter to Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, where she was treated for her injuries, Sondra Minor said.

Mohr said she would not comment on the teenagers’ claims they were racially profiled, saying she doesn’t comment on “hearsay.”

Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1175, @SullivanMollyM

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