Sheriff’s vehicle appears to have hit a protester at Stephon Clark vigil
Who is Wanda Cleveland?
Wanda Cleveland is a well-known social activist in Sacramento who often attends both City Council and county Board of Supervisors meetings. The Board of Supervisors oversees the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
Cleveland was participating in a vigil Saturday night for Stephon Clark when she was hit by a Sheriff's Department vehicle on Florin Road. A video of the collision was captured by Guy Danilowitz of the National Lawyers Guild.
Around 8:40 p.m. Saturday, Channel 10 video footage showed about three dozen protesters surrounding a sheriff's vehicle that pulled up as people were marching in the street. The sheriff's deputy sounded his siren and told the protesters to back away four times. He slowly pulled forward and left the scene.
A second sheriff's vehicle followed and struck Cleveland, knocking her to the ground.
Cleveland said she started walking toward the curb after the first sheriff's vehicle moved away, because her arthritis was bothering her. She said the driver of the second vehicle did not say anything and abruptly accelerated, hitting her in the knee.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton acknowledged the collision in a news release early Sunday morning. The release said "vandals in the crowd" caused "scratches, dents and a shattered rear window" to a sheriff's vehicle.
The collision happened while the vehicle was traveling "at slow speeds," the release said. The department is conducting an internal review and the California Highway Patrol is investigating, it said.
It did not say whether the broken window occurred prior to Cleveland being hit or after but said the damage did not result from hitting Cleveland.
The release also did not address why deputies left the scene. Hampton has not responded to calls for clarification.
What did she say about it?
While at the hospital, Cleveland told a Bee reporter that she thought what the driver of the vehicle did was wrong.
“He never even stopped," she said. "It was a hit and run."
"If I did that, I’d be charged. It’s disregard for human life. ... He had to have known he hit me. I went flying through the air.”
What else does Cleveland advocate for?
Cleveland is one of a group of activists that has attended nearly every City Council meeting for the past three years. She often speaks during public comment sessions about homelessness, particularly the city's anti-camping ordinance.
"She doesn’t have much money, and I know that she’s actually housed some homeless people's belongings because they weren’t able to carry them around," said friend Ashley Crabtree. "She does what she can to always make sure she gives back to the community."
Crabtree said Cleveland cites her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as her reason for activism. She has told the City Council that while she lives in a nearby suburb, she is friends with many in the homeless community and is emphatic about ending the city's anti-camping ordinance, which she says criminalizes the homeless.
She is an impassioned speaker, frequently raising her voice, and has been removed from council chambers by police at least once.
"You don’t see Wanda jumping on top of cop cars," said Crabtree. "She is a sweet lady, and she was just out there trying to change things."
She is a former bus driver and para-educator in the Elk Grove school district.
How else do you know Cleveland?
Cleveland was vocal in her support for Sean Thompson, a local activist who slammed a pie into the face of former Mayor Kevin Johnson, a high-profile incident that also drew national headlines. She often wears a T-shirt to council meetings with a picture of a coconut cream pie on it, in reference to the flavor of pie Thompson used.
She was also one of the activists who wore turtle costumes to City Council meetings for a couple of months following a council decision to protect turtles living in city park ponds. The activists said council members cared more about turtles than the homeless.
Is she OK?
Yes. She was released from Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center in the early hours of Sunday morning. She had bruises on her arm and the back of her head.
Crabtree said Cleveland is home recovering.
"She said she is doing OK, but she feels like she was hit by a car," said Crabtree. "Once you get over the initial shock ... you feel it in the morning, so she’s going through that."