A Sacramento police officer faced a disciplinary review for calling suspect Dazion Jerome Flenaugh a “freak” and suggesting that a bystander should hit him with a baseball bat in a verbal exchange captured on dashcam video about 16 minutes before other officers shot Flenaugh dead.
Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said an “administrative review” was conducted with the unidentified officer, whom he described as a “seasoned” veteran with more than 10 years of experience. Heinlein declined to give the outcome of that review, citing privacy rules.
Under California law, law enforcement personnel matters are confidential.
The remarks occurred during an April 8 incident in which police shot and killed Flenaugh, 40, a mentally ill homeless man in south Sacramento. The unidentified officer was the first one to interact with Flenaugh, placing him in the back of a police cruiser after approaching him based on a 911 call reporting a man wandering the Parkway neighborhood of south Sacramento looking in windows.
Flenaugh was not arrested, but grew severely agitated and began hitting the door and climbing on the seats searching for escape.
The unidentified officer can be heard speaking on two videos released by the Sacramento Police Department.
“What are you doing, you freak?” the officer said in one video from a dashboard camera as he opened the door to check on Flenaugh.
Flenaugh then pushed past the officer and ran from the vehicle. The unidentified officer and a second officer who responded to the scene did not at first vigorously pursue Flenaugh, based on video released to The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday. Told by a bystander that Flenaugh had entered a backyard, the unidentified officer climbed onto the hood of his police cruiser to see if he could spot Flenaugh.
Seconds later, a bystander asked what was happening, and the unidentified officer told him, “Oh there’s some nut, tweak, just freaking out. He’s back there somewhere. Well, if you see him, just hit him with a baseball bat a couple of times. That’ll mellow him out.”
The two officers then walked back to their cars, one laughing.
Of the remarks, Heinlein said, “It falls under conduct unbecoming of an officer. It’s not something that we condone. It’s a comment that makes the department and that officer look poor in the eyes of the community and peers.”
Flenaugh continued to run from police and grew increasingly violent. At one point, he used a pickax he found in a backyard to break the sliding-glass door of another house. Inside that house, he armed himself with a meat cleaver and a kitchen knife. Police on Wednesday released photos of those weapons. An officer wearing a body camera was heard at the scene describing them.
Police said that when officers located Flenaugh on Center Parkway near Lerner Way, he lunged at police holding both knives.
Three officers shot Flenaugh dead, firing 16 shots and hitting him seven times. Officers confirmed Flenaugh was dead before medical personnel arrived, based on body camera footage.
No toxicology report has been released, but Heinlein said Flenaugh had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.
Heinlein said the department does not have mandated disciplinary guidelines, but evaluates each incident independently.
“It’s a case-by-case basis,” Heinlein said. “It depends on the severity of the offense, too.”
The video and audio recordings were released by the city after a Public Records Act request filed by The Bee. The City Council in late November approved Police Department changes that included releasing video of fatal officer-involved incidents in most instances. While the Flenaugh incident occurred before the new rule was passed, city officials said they chose to release the materials as part of a push for government transparency at City Hall.
An investigation of the incident is ongoing with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, but all officers involved in the Flenaugh case have returned to active duty, Heinlein said. The city also hired an independent investigator to examine the Flenaugh shooting, as well as the July fatal police shooting of Joseph Mann, who also was a mentally ill homeless man.