Sacramento officer who punched alleged jaywalker returns to duty after investigation

An officer who punched an alleged jaywalker more than a dozen times in Del Paso Heights in April will return to duty in coming weeks with no public details on the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

He will likely patrol an area that includes the neighborhood where the incident took place.

The department announced Monday it had completed its investigation into the April 10 incident in which Officer Anthony Figueroa repeatedly punched Del Paso Heights resident Nandi Cain, and that Figueroa would return to his former duties. Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn said Figueroa was scheduled to patrol Natomas, but that officers in that district also answer “a lot of calls” in nearby Del Paso Heights.

Hahn said state law prohibited him from offering details of the internal affairs investigation, including whether Figueroa was disciplined, but that “the end result of this contact (between Figueroa and Cain) is not what we want to see.”

It is illegal under California law for a law enforcement department to release any personnel information on officers, including disciplinary records.

The internal affairs investigation examined whether Figueroa had broken any policies or training during the encounter, said department spokesman Officer Eddie Macaulay. The department separately asked the Sacramento County district attorney to review the case to determine if either Figueroa or Cain should be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing.

In a letter dated July 31 and released to The Bee Monday, the district attorney concluded “that it is not reasonably likely a jury would convict either Officer Figueroa or Nandi Cain of a criminal offense related to this incident.”

The DA’s letter also said its review found that Cain did not comply with commands, and supported Figueroa’s escalation to physical force, though a pedestrian group questioned the legality of the stop in the days after it happened.

“We recognize police officers do not have the luxury of walking away from a subject who refused an order during an investigation. However, regardless of the lawfulness of the initial attempt to detain, the facts of this case highlight the existing tension between some community members and law enforcement,” the unsigned DA’s memo said.

Prior to the announcement, Hahn addressed that tension by meeting Monday with community activists at the Greater Sacramento Urban League in Del Paso Heights to discuss ways to “re-integrate” the officer into the community. The announcement that Figueroa could be patrolling in Del Paso Heights was met with equanimity by community leaders who support the chief personally, said Jay King, one of those in attendance.

“I think what the chief did, or what he’s doing, is proper, smart and I think it’s the best way for our community to heal and garner trust and a partnership-type attitude between the police and the community,” said King.

Del Paso Heights resident Mervin Brookins, well known for running youth sports leagues in the area, was also at the meeting. He said Hahn did not offer details about the officer’s discipline, but focused on ways the department intended to increase community policing efforts, and efforts to help officers know the areas they patrol better – including having cadets volunteer in neighborhoods they might patrol.

Brookins said the community strongly supports the chief, and expressed a willingness to back Figueroa returning to Del Paso Heights based on their personal trust in Hahn.

“My question to the chief is, is he is satisfied with the outcome of the investigation? He said he was, because he personally had to sign off on it,” said Brookins. “So that is good enough for me. I believe in the chief. The community believes in the chief.”

Hahn said the trust comes from his years in Sacramento and his time as a former police captain in North Sacramento, but he would like build credence that extends beyond his personal ties.

“It’s not their trust in the police department. It’s their trust in me,” Hahn said. “That’s not a recipe for success. Ideally ... they trust the police department.”

Brookins said some at the Urban League session asked Hahn if it was possible to arrange a meeting between community members and Figueora, but were told the department “can’t mandate him to meet with the community.”

Hahn said Monday afternoon he met Figueroa for the first time earlier that day, and asked the officer if he was willing to partake in restorative justice with the Del Paso Heights community. Restorative justice involves trying to repair harm by having the offender and victim work together on a resolution.

Hahn said he didn’t specifically suggest a meeting between the community and officer, but said Figueroa expressed a willingness to explore options. Hahn said he could order such a meeting but didn’t want to.

“Ordering someone to a community meeting that absolutely doesn’t want to be there … is not going to go well,” said Hahn.

The incident between Figueroa and Cain began on the afternoon of April 10 as Cain was walking home from his job as an electronic parts salesman. Cain crossed the intersection of Cypress Street and Grand Avenue when Figueroa drove his patrol car up behind him.

Figueroa verbally told Cain to stop, but Cain kept walking without looking back at the officer. Cain later said he didn’t know it was a police officer speaking to him at first. Cain continued to walk away from the officer and crossed to the middle of Cypress Street. The altercation escalated verbally and Cain removed his jacket in what he described as an attempt to show he had no weapons and what the department later described as a preparation to fight.

Figueroa threw Cain on the pavement and punched him about 18 times. The altercation was filmed by a local resident, and quickly went viral when she posted it to Facebook. The department quickly responded by releasing in-car camera video of the incident and opening an internal affairs investigation.

Figueroa was placed on paid leave in shortly after the incident in April, according to Macaulay. He was reinstated to active duty on Monday.

Cain sued the department and the County of Sacramento for the incident and alleged mistreatment he said he received in jail, including deputies there stripping him naked and verbally abusing him. Cain was ultimately released with no charges, and recently settled the county portion of the suit for $40,000.

The suit against the city of Sacramento and the department remains ongoing.

“Transparency is key to building public trust, but the prohibition of any public disclosure in this decision undermines that transparency and rightfully frustrates our community,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg in a statement. “While I have a real issue with this limitation, I do trust and respect the process, our Police Department and Chief Hahn.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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