Homeless activist sues Sacramento County after car towed, alleging deputy ‘retaliated’

A local homeless activist is suing Sacramento County and the Sheriff’s Office, alleging that her civil rights were violated when her car was seized during an altercation related to the clearing of a south Sacramento encampment in May.

Crystal Sanchez was arrested and her car was seized and towed May 17 while she attempted to help homeless people who were being detained near a vacant lot on Stockton Boulevard. Earlier in the month, about 70 homeless people had been ousted from inside the 5700 Stockton Blvd. property during a large-scale clearing, prompting dozens to protest.

The lawsuit alleges that Sanchez was “targeted” by a sheriff’s deputy, who “retaliated against her because of her leadership position on providing assistance to homeless persons camped at the 5700 Stockton Boulevard lot.”

During the May 1 protest, Sanchez was stopped from re-entering the lot to help homeless people pack up their belongings, and allegedly told by a deputy that she was “this close to being arrested.”

When she drove back to the lot a few weeks later after hearing homeless people camped outside the lot were being detained, the same deputy called her by name, handcuffed her and accused her of driving without a valid license, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit alleges the deputy — referred to only by the last name Albee — had not seen her driving the vehicle, and did not allow volunteers to take custody of Sanchez’s car “so that the food and equipment in the vehicle would not be spoiled or stolen.”

Sanchez has not been able to raise enough money to release her car from the tow yard, according to the lawsuit.

“As a result, Plantiff Crystal R. Sanchez has been deprived of the use of her vehicle, can not make it available to others with valid driver’s licenses so that her service work to homeless people can continue,” the lawsuit stated.

Sanchez is represented in the lawsuit by Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin.

The suit mark the latest legal turn stemming from the south Sacramento encampment clearing.

Three weeks after the protest, three homeless citizens and an advocacy group filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Sacramento County, alleging that deputies broke one woman’s arm, destroyed their possessions and violated their civil rights.

Sanchez’s lawsuit seeks compensation and damages for injuries Sanchez allegedly suffered from the incident, as well as payment from the deputy “in an amount sufficient to deter and to make an example of him.”

Sacramento Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Tess Deterding said the office could not comment on pending litigation.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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