Sac police chief: Dallas shootings the 'worst that I've seen'
Sacramento police said Friday they have no immediate plans to alter the way they patrol rallies and protests in the city after a gunman opened fire during a protest in Dallas on Thursday, killing five officers.
However, the events in Dallas are likely to have a lasting impact on the women and men in uniform tasked with monitoring the capital city.
“This is going to be in the back of every officer’s mind forever,” said Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a department spokesman. “This isn’t our hobby – this is our profession, it’s something we’ve been called to do. To be attacked while protecting people is difficult to comprehend.”
Later in the afternoon, Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. – whose family members served in law enforcement for 50 years – said the Dallas mass shooting was “the worst that I think I’ve seen in my career.”
“That said, our officers are still going to be out there. They’re still going to be serving the community. They’re still going to be .... protecting the First Amendment rights of everybody in this country regardless of what the message is – even if it’s against us.”
Jamier Sale, a Black Lives Matter activist, said local events protesting police shootings of black suspects would continue. “We have a pretty good track record – at least in Sacramento – of engaging in protests and not having any kind of violence, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon,” he said.
“What we’re really worried about is that the police are going to keep on doing what they are doing,” he added. “The cops are telling us every day that our lives don’t matter.”
The state Capitol closed early on Friday after activist posts on Twitter called for a march at 6 p.m. Friday near the Capitol at 12th and L streets to protest recent police shootings. As of 6:20 p.m., about 120 protestors had arrived. Police were stationed around the grounds, including on the top floor of a nearby parking garage. The protesters marched around the Capitol grounds and chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Sale said his group is planning an event at 3 p.m. on Sunday near Franklin Boulevard and Florin Road to “demand justice” for the two African-American men shot by police in Minnesota and Louisiana this week. Black Lives Matter has a rally scheduled from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Carmichael.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he contacted Police Chief Sam Somers “to make sure we are preparing ourselves against similar acts of violence in Dallas.” He added that he wants to ensure the police department continues to address community relations efforts “so that we also do not see the tragedies of Ferguson, St. Paul and Baton Rouge fall on our great city.”
“The degenerate acts of violence we saw in Dallas last night are reprehensible,” the mayor said in a written statement. “I reached out to Mayor Rawlings (of Dallas) to express Sacramento’s support for the Dallas Police Department and the people of Dallas. While we need to make sure there are fair, independent and expedient investigations in St. Paul and Baton Rouge, we can never condone the senseless violence we witnessed last night.”
Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg said that his reaction was "similar to what I said about what happened at the Capitol: Violence in any form is unacceptable."
Steinberg said that he had also met with Sacramento police chief Sam Somers about the brawl on the Capitol mall last month – when fighting between neo-Nazis and “anti-fascists” left 10 people injured, including five who were stabbed. Steinberg said he would continue to hold regular meetings with law enforcement officials as he begins his transition to the mayor's office.
He added that while Sacramento had not seen the mass civil unrest of other cities, "we can never take for granted or assume that it could never happen here."
He plans on "insisting on continued proactive communication and peaceful conflict resolutions between our law enforcement and minority communities. From a Mayor's perspective, it will be my job to make sure that happens and to also speak out loudly and clearly about the importance of civility, of the importance of non-violence, the importance of listening to one another, the importance of not being afraid to talk about difficult issues like race."
Local activist Steven Payan said that while his group has communicated with police successfully during rallies to keep the peace, in the wake of Dallas, law enforcement will need to take the lead in maintaining that relationship.
“It’s on law enforcement to be accountable, to uphold justice and not take it out on Sacramentans who are peacefully protesting,” he said.
Heinlein said police here receive regular training on how to respond to protests and said it is “too early to say what kind of changes are going to be made, if any (to how police handle those situations).”
“It only takes one person to cause chaos,” he said.
Five officers in Dallas were killed and seven wounded by a man targeting white police officers at a rally in downtown Dallas, police said. The man – identified by some media outlets as Afghanistan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, 25 – told police he was angry about recent police shootings. Johnson was killed by police after an hours-long standoff.
Hundreds of people had marched in a rally in Dallas to protest the deaths of two men this week who were shot by police in Baton Rouge, La., and Falcon Heights, Minn.
At around the same time, a few dozen activists gathered peacefully outside the Sacramento County Jail downtown to mourn the two men killed by police and to call for improved community relations with law enforcement. It’s unclear whether the organizers of that event – or other groups that have held rallies in Sacramento – planned another event in response to the Dallas tragedy.
"The whole society has become far too coarse, so we have to do everything we can to always show respect for one another and we all have to do our parts," said Steinberg. "We can’t change the whole world. We can at least change our part of the world."