Inspector general reviews black man's death in October standoff with sheriff's deputies
Nine months after Adriene Ludd was shot and killed in a confrontation with Sacramento sheriff’s deputies, the autopsy has been completed and the county’s inspector general says he is close to issuing a full report on the shooting, which has sparked several protests in the community.
“I’ve seen all the videos, all the dashcam videos, listened to the interviews and read through the reports, including early this morning with the autopsy report,” Inspector General Rick Braziel said Tuesday.
Braziel, the former Sacramento police chief who is reviewing the Ludd shooting as his first case as the county’s independent inspector general, said he could not yet divulge anything about his findings but said they would be made public when his report is complete.
He added that he plans to have meetings soon with the Ludd family, Sheriff Scott Jones and members of Black Lives Matter, who asked that he investigate the shooting.
“The sheriff doesn’t even know what my findings are,” Braziel said after leaving an emotional 90-minute session of the county Board of Supervisors. More than 30 activists filled the chambers and spoke out against what they called the “murder” of Ludd and what they see as a lack of transparency in the case by Jones.
Jones’ office has found the Ludd shooting to be justified, and has turned its findings over to Braziel and to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for separate reviews.
As the nation has been gripped by protests over shootings by and against police officers, the Ludd case has galvanized area activists who see the death of the 36-year-old African American man as a symbol of law enforcement repression of blacks and others in the region.
Ludd was killed Oct. 22 in a confrontation with three veteran sheriff’s deputies, including one who is being sued over a 2012 shooting of a mentally ill man in his home.
Deputy David McEntire, a 13-year veteran of the department, is being sued in federal court over the January 2012 shooting of Johnathan Rose, who was killed in a confrontation with McEntire in the Rose family’s living room.
Rose’s father, Ted, a Sacramento pastor, has said he was holding onto his son tightly to defuse the incident when he felt the bullets McEntire fired pass through his son’s body.
Court filings in the case state that McEntire has faced at least six excessive force or internal affairs investigations, something the county has denied.
McEntire was one of three deputies who fired at Ludd last October, the Sheriff’s Department says.
Deputies Benjamin Green, a 15-year veteran, and Troy Mohler, a 20-year veteran, also fired at Ludd, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Turnbull.
The incident began at about noon that day when a deputy tried to pull Ludd over near Manzanita Avenue and Winding Way for an expired license plate.
The Sheriff’s Department says the vehicle sped off, running stop signs in residential areas before coming to a halt. During that stop, a passenger in the car jumped out with his hands in the air and surrendered, and Ludd took off in the car, according to the department.
Ludd led deputies on a chase to Cypress Avenue west of Garfield Avenue and stopped his car in the middle of the street sideways, Turnbull said, then stood behind the passenger side of the vehicle and aimed a Tec-22 handgun at deputies.
“He gets out of his car, pops up over the top of the passenger compartment aiming the Tec-22 directly at the officers,” Turnbull said. “They fire shots.”
Ludd, whose first name was misspelled as “Adrienne” in the initial Sheriff’s Department news release on the incident, ducked down behind his car after that, and deputies stopped firing to assess the situation, Turnbull said. But they then saw Ludd crawling toward the weapon and fired again, killing Ludd, he said.
Deputies later discovered the Tec-22 was inoperable because it had jammed, and they found another loaded .25-caliber pistol in Ludd’s front pocket, Turnbull said.
Ludd’s family and area activists have questioned why deputies continued to shoot after Ludd initially fell to the ground and have asked Jones to release dashcam video and other information in the case.
The Sheriff’s Department has refused those requests, saying it does not release such evidence; the department also will not release the identity of the passenger in Ludd’s car, saying he is a witness.
The department’s own review of the case found no violation of policies or practices by deputies.
“From the time it happened and the days following we’ve repeatedly provided the public with the facts of the case,” Turnbull said. “Those facts have not changed …
“Its unfortunate that the actions of Mr. Ludd that day forced our officers to use lethal force, and it’s unfortunate that our officers had to use lethal force. It’s not something that we wanted to do. We enter this business knowing that’s a possibility, and that’s something that they have to live with now all the days of their lives.”
Turnbull added that he was surprised that the Ludd case has become so contentious, and that “if anybody wants to question the justifiability of our officers’ actions based on the suspect’s actions I don’t think there’s any credibility.”
In addition to Braziel’s review, the Sheriff’s Department has turned its findings over to District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office.
Chief Deputy Steve Grippi said Tuesday that his office received the autopsy report Tuesday morning and expected additional information shortly. Grippi added that a report could be concluded in 30 days or so, although he cautioned that predicting a timetable is difficult. The county declined a request from The Sacramento Bee to release the autopsy report Tuesday.
Since Ludd’s death, family members and activists have continued mounting demonstrations.
“Our whole goal is to increase transparency,” said Donielle Prince, a Black Lives Matter activist whose group filed a formal complaint in November asking Braziel’s office to investigate the Ludd shooting.
“We want accountable and transparent policing. We know that there are other cities where that happens, so we want it, too.”
The group’s most recent protest was held Saturday outside the Jones campaign office on Fair Oaks Boulevard, where Jones, a Republican, is running his effort to defeat Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ami Bera.
That demonstration came as the nation was gripped with protests over the police shootings of African American men in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as the slayings of five Dallas officers last week by a sniper following a protest march.
Sacramento residents disturbed by the Ludd case and by what they see as hostility from law enforcement packed the board chambers Tuesday to demand supervisors increase their oversight of the Sheriff’s Department.
Comments ranged from calls for Jones to resign to residents sharing personal grievances with the Sheriff’s Department. Madihah Stewart, 54, told the board that when she calls the police about drug transactions around her business, she feels like the suspect.
She said if the officers took the time to get to know her and the community, there wouldn’t be so many hostile confrontations between police and community members.
Supervisor Phil Serna said he understands there’s a large group of his constituents who feel disenfranchised, are angry and believe there’s a negative culture in law enforcement no matter the department.
“It’s part of being a local, elected leader,” he said. “You are part of that group that receives a petition, verbally in this case, from your constituents about something that is clearly very tangible for them.”
The Board of Supervisors allocates a budget for the Sheriff’s Department, but beyond that, the supervisors have little control over how the department operates because the sheriff is an elected official.
“There’s no institutional, direct oversight or checks and balances between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff,” Serna said. “He has a choice to listen, to understand those grievances.”