‘What makes them above the law?’ Mother describes son’s fatal shooting by deputies
Weeks after Sacramento Inspector General Rick Braziel issued a report critical of a deputy-involved shooting, Sheriff Scott Jones said he has locked Braziel out of department facilities and will not allow him access to records or department personnel — effectively ending independent oversight of the department.
Jones also called for the county to sever ties with Braziel.
In a letter to Sacramento County Executive Navdeep Gill dated Aug. 20 and obtained by The Bee, Jones called Braziel’s conclusions “misguided, destructive and dangerous” and accused Braziel of being politically motivated when he questioned the decisions of officers in the May 2017 shooting of Mikel McIntyre on Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova.
Jones wrote, “(t)he Inspector General position is only effective if he or she has unfettered access to Sheriff’s facilities, personnel and reports.” But Jones found “it necessary to terminate (Braziel’s) access” in part because Jones could no longer “in good conscious sell (Braziel’s) value or trustworthiness to my over 2,100 employees” because had no “remaining faith” that Braziel was impartial.
Jones was unavailable for comment Wednesday, according to department spokesman Shaun Hampton.
Braziel disputed Jones’ charges and said he stood by the findings of his report.
“It’s sad because this is all about being transparent to the public and having candid, quality conversations about areas where we can improve,” Braziel said. “The only one making it political is the sheriff.”
Braziel, a former Sacramento police chief, released a 27-page report on the McIntyre incident in August, providing the first official glimpse into the fatal shooting more than a year after it occurred.
It detailed a hectic encounter between McIntyre, a 32-year-old black man who was experiencing a mental health crisis, and law enforcement on May 8, 2017. During the incident, officers fired 28 rounds at McIntyre — some from more than 100 feet away and others from across multiple lanes of the freeway. McIntyre was hit seven times and died in a local hospital.
The event began at about 3 p.m. when family members called for help about McIntyre acting strangely. Responders from the fire department arrived at the family home in Rosemont and concluded McIntyre, an Uber driver and former Major League Baseball prospect originally from Antioch, did not qualify for a mental health hold.
Police were called back soon after, when family reported McIntyre became violent. Deputies told McIntyre to leave the house.
After deputies left, McIntyre and his mother, Brigett, went shopping at a commercial center near Highway 50 and Zinfandel, where McIntyre again became combative while the two sat in her parked car. Numerous 911 calls reported a man beating and choking a woman in the parking lot of the Ross store on Olson Drive, and Deputy Jeff Wright responded, the report said.
Wright spotted McIntyre and ordered him to stop, but McIntyre continued to move away from him. The two eventually grappled, and the deputy fell. The report said McIntyre then picked up a rock slightly smaller than a football and threw it at the deputy from about five feet away, striking him in the head.
The dazed deputy fired at McIntyre, but McIntyre continued around the corner and under a freeway underpass. There, he encountered Deputy Ken Becker and his canine partner. McIntyre picked up a softball-sized rock and threw it, hitting Becker in the leg and the dog in the muzzle, the report found.
Becker then fired his handgun at McIntyre several times as McIntyre ran alongside the westbound lane of the freeway.
“A round he fired struck the asphalt in the right lane of westbound US 50. A subsequent round he fired also struck the asphalt in the right lane of westbound US 50 west of the first round.”
The report said Becker fired eight rounds and stopped firing when the suspect was about 105 feet away.
Another deputy, Gabriel Rodriguez, who had responded to the family’s home earlier, saw Becker fire as McIntyre fled. Rodriguez began firing from the middle of the highway, about 58 feet away, the report said. Rodriguez stopped firing momentarily to let a car get out of his line of fire, then continued, the report said.
Braziel’s report found that officers may have missed opportunities to de-escalate and use non-lethal options before firing on McIntyre. He concluded that deputies need more training on when to transition to less lethal measures against suspects, but fell short of accusing the deputies of any misconduct.
“There are instances where the number of rounds fired at McIntyre were excessive, unnecessary, and put the community at risk,” Braziel’s report said. “While chaos in these situations is a reality, the ability to make sound and reasonable decisions is essential.
“As the distance between McIntyre and the deputies increased, the risk of serious injury or death decreased, and with it, the need for deadly force,” the report stated. “If McIntyre had been able to stop and retrieve another rock from the ground, or while running reached into his pocket and grabbed a rock, the deputies had enough distance and time to assess the new set of facts and determine if deadly force was reasonable or if less lethal options were more appropriate.”
In his letter to the county, Jones said he didn’t think Braziel was qualified to draw his conclusions about the incident because “he is neither a recognized use-of-force expert nor a legal expert.”
Jones also took issue with the timing of the release, arguing Braziel’s report should have been held until after the Sacramento County District Attorney had released findings in its review. The District Attorney reviews officer-involved shootings for criminal wrongdoing.
Jones continued, “Not only does it paint the officers in an inaccurate and unfairly critical light, it also places the county and the District Attorney in needlessly untenable positions. For the county’s part, he has subjected it to greater financial exposure unnecessarily and has placed himself in the very real possibility of being called as a witness for the plaintiff against the county. For the DA, he has placed an unwarranted burden on that office to have to justify their findings if they are disparate from his, even though they alone have the expertise to be the ultimate arbiter of legal propriety.”
Braziel said he is not required to withhold his report until after the District Attorney’s is released.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert did not respond to requests for comment.
Jim Bueermann, head of the National Police Foundation, of which Braziel is a member, said Braziel did have expertise in use-of-force reviews as well as police policy and procedure.
“He is widely recognized, and by that I mean nationally recognized as a subject-matter expert,” Bueermann said.
Bueermann said Braziel has been involved in high-profile critical incident reviews including in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack and the Pulse Nightclub attack in Florida.
Jones further accused Braziel of having personal or political motivations for his findings, insinuating the report may have been a bid to support AB 931, a controversial police use-of-force bill currently being debated by the legislature. Jones suggested the report could be an attempt to funnel state law enforcement training money into de-escalation trainings, tied to Braziel’s role as a member of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which sets law enforcement training standards in the state.
“POST mandates are generally derived from the Governor or legislature, and I would submit that neither would be accused of being unbiased in this current climate of policing,” Jones wrote.
County spokeswoman Kimberly Nava said the county did not have an opinion on the dispute.
“The Office of the Inspector General is an independent monitor that provides oversight of investigations of citizen complaints against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to ensure they are objective, fair, and complete,” Nava said in a statement. “The OIG informs and advises the Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff, and the County Executive relative to findings and recommendations. Regarding the McIntyre case, the OIG has an opinion as stated in the report. The Sheriff disagrees with that opinion.”
Jones encouraged the county to cut ties with Braziel, who works for the county on an annual contract that is set to expire or be renewed in November.
Multiple members of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voiced support for Braziel and the Office of the Inspector General Wednesday.
County Supervisor Phil Serna, whom Jones accused in the letter of pushing for the release of the report, said he believed the oversight of the inspector general was crucial to transparency.
“It is unusual, suspect and indeed unprecedented that a Sacramento County sheriff would so intently hold hostage the county’s ability to conduct independent reviews of in custody deaths, officer involved shootings and other responsibilities assigned to the inspector general’s office,” Serna said.
Supervisor Don Nottoli said he believed the inspector general “has helped to maintain a level of confidence that there is an independent third party doing reviews (of the Sheriff’s Department) who is qualified. ... I haven’t had any negatives in my interactions with (Braziel). His role and responsibility are very important. I think we’re lucky to have him.”
Supervisor Patrick Kennedy said he was “extremely disappointed with the sheriff’s reaction to this.”
“This is why we need an inspector general,” said Kennedy. “Why shouldn’t we have an independent eye looking at the activities of the Sheriff’s Department, particularly one as qualified as Rick Braziel. ... What is (Jones) afraid of?”
County Supervisor and board chair Susan Peters did not return a call for comment.
Brigett McIntyre, Mikel’s mother, said she was “devastated” to read the report but it provided answers to questions she has been harboring for more than a year.
“All of this is upsetting to me because we are talking about my son and his life,” she said. “How come the sheriff didn’t say something right after it happened? Why is he speaking up now when the inspector general is saying something? The inspector general did his job.”