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Activist hit by sheriff’s SUV at Stephon Clark protest files claim against county

Legal issues stemming from the Sacramento police shooting death of Stephon Clark six months ago continue to mount, with a woman who was struck by a sheriff’s SUV during a protest march filing a claim against Sacramento County on Wednesday for damages from the incident.

The claim, a precursor to a lawsuit if no settlement is reached, was filed on behalf of Wanda Cleveland, a 62-year-old activist who was struck during a March 31 protest in south Sacramento in an incident that sparked outrage after the deputy driving sped away from the crowd.

The claim, which seeks unlimited civil damages greater than $10,000, seeks payment for general and special damages, as well as medical costs for injuries to her head, neck, back, hips and knees.

Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel, who filed the claim on Cleveland’s behalf, said his client is still undergoing treatment for various injuries from when she was struck by the SUV and sent flying into the air in front of dozens of witnesses.

“I would certainly hope that the county would consider a quick and fair settlement, which would be beneficial for everyone,” Reichel said.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The claim is the second filed in recent weeks stemming from the March 18 shooting of Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man whose death at the hands of two police officers has spawned protests at City Hall and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office that continue.

Lawyers for Clark family members filed claims Sept. 4 against the city seeking more than $35 million in payments over his death, which is still under investigation by police and will face review by District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Protests began shortly after Clark was shot to death by officers, who were responding to reports of a suspected car burglar in Meadowview. Clark ran into a backyard – officers later learned it belonged to his grandparents – and police said they shot him because he turned toward the two officers and whom they believed had a gun.

Investigators later found he was carrying only a cell phone.

Demonstrators swarmed parts of the city including downtown where they closed down Interstate 5, blocked access to two Sacramento Kings games and repeatedly shut down rush-hour traffic.

Cleveland was injured during a Saturday night protest along Florin Road near the Sheriff’s south area substation, where hundreds had gathered to protest the Clark shooting.

The claim against the county says the deputy driving “intentionally, purposefully and knowingly accelerated the SUV toward and at claimant in conscious disregard” for Cleveland’s safety.

Then, despite Cleveland being thrown into the air while the crowd screamed, “the deputy left and fled the scene” without stopping or slowing down, the claim says.

“It is not possible the officer did not see her,” Reichel has said previously.

The incident occurred as two sheriff’s vehicles were returning to the substation from an unrelated call and were surrounded by protesters. The first vehicle made it through the crowd after repeatedly warning them over a loudspeaker to move out of the way.

The second vehicle subsequently hit Cleveland.

Cleveland, who was interviewed after the incident in her hospital bed, told The Sacramento Bee at the time that after the first vehicle drove through she was trying to get to the curb because her arthritis was making her knees weak, and that the second deputy accelerated and hit her in the knee.

“He never even stopped,” she said at the time. “It was a hit-and-run. If I did that, I’d be charged.”

Sheriff Scott Jones called a press conference after the incident to defend the department and play – but not release publicly – dash-cam video of the incident.

Jones said the deputy may have been focused on the “threat” of protesters on the left side of his vehicle, and suggested that “professional protesters” had infiltrated the demonstration and caused the problems. The videos showed protesters stopping in front of the deputies’ vehicles, shouting and making hand gestures, and the vehicles ended up with several dents, he said.

Although Cleveland’s claim does not list a specific amount being sought, it includes an estimate of her medical care totaling nearly $43,000.

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