Crime - Sacto 911

Witness says Davis police officers’ behavior on Picnic Day led to beating

Elijah James Williams, 19, of West Sacramento, was one of three men arrested Saturday for allegedly attacking Davis police officers during UC Davis’ annual Picnic Day event.
Elijah James Williams, 19, of West Sacramento, was one of three men arrested Saturday for allegedly attacking Davis police officers during UC Davis’ annual Picnic Day event. Davis Police Department

A visitor to UC Davis’ Picnic Day on Saturday who witnessed an incident in which two officers were injured said she blamed police for the crowd’s hostile reaction and the fight that ensued.

Isabel Lynch, a Sacramento resident and student at Sierra College in Rocklin, said she has attended Picnic Day for several years and was there Saturday with friends. After attending events on campus, they went to a party at what she described as townhomes or apartments in the College Park area. After about an hour, Lynch said, people started leaving and she was told they had been asked to go.

Lynch said she was waiting with other people to cross Russell Boulevard. “I was on the edge of the sidewalk, waiting to cross, when a van came and nearly hit us,” she said.

Lynch said a passenger in the van opened the door and started waving at the crowd. At that point, Lynch said, she did not realize the people in the van were police officers. The driver “laid on the horn and was yelling out the window, ‘Get the f--- off the street,’ ” she said.

Lynch said people in the crowd and officers yelled obscenities and fighting broke out.

“I did see one of the officers on the ground, and I saw one girl kicking one of the officers,” she said.

Lynch said she also saw an officer take a girl to the ground, which incited the crowd.

“A lot of it didn’t make sense,” she said. “I think they (police) were just reacting, and they reacted poorly.”

Lynch estimated that at least 10 people were fighting with officers and questioned why only three were arrested.

The three men arrested and accused of assaulting Davis police officers during Saturday’s annual campus open house were not UC Davis students, according to a campus spokesman.

Alexander Reide Craver, 22, and Elijah James Williams, 19, both of West Sacramento, and Antwoine Rashadek Perry, 21, of Elk Grove, were taken into custody Saturday afternoon.

Andy Fell, a UC Davis spokesman, said the men’s names were not found in the university’s student records.

Jonathan Raven, Yolo County chief deputy district attorney, said the three men were released on bail and are scheduled to appear in court May 23.

Davis police officials did not return multiple phone calls Wednesday seeking comment on Lynch’s account of the incident. But on Monday, they had offered a different description of events.

Police said the incident began when three officers – one in uniform and two in plain clothes, but with badges visible on their chests – drove up in an unmarked vehicle, which was surrounded by a hostile crowd.

As they got out of the vehicle and began to identify themselves as police officers, they were attacked by several people and beaten on the ground, the department said. Police reported that the officers were kicked and punched in the head, and one officer was struck on the side of the head with a bottle.

Two of the officers were treated for injuries at a hospital emergency room. One suffered injuries to his eye and face, and the other was treated for a bleeding head wound caused by a bottle, according to a Police Department news release.

Lynch and police said several people were using their cellphones to take videos during the incident. Given that videos of incidents involving alleged police brutality are typically quick to surface on social media, Lynch said she was surprised that none seem to have been posted in this case.

Police are asking anyone with cellphone video or information regarding the case to call the Davis Police Department’s investigations unit at 530-747-5400.

Lt. Tom Waltz, police department spokesman, said Tuesday that police responded to other incidents Saturday but had not yet compiled statistics on arrests and citations related to off-campus Picnic Day activities.

The department’s online crime map shows an incident on Saturday in which a person was reported brandishing a weapon at Second and A streets in downtown Davis and another in which shots were reportedly fired near Highway 113 and Hutchinson Drive. Dozens of other calls for disturbing the peace, alcohol-related incidents and noise complaints were registered on Picnic Day.

Fell, the UC Davis spokesman, said relatively few problems were reported on campus Saturday. Campus police arrested two people for being drunk in public and issued nine alcohol-related citations, primarily for open containers and minors in possession of alcohol, he said.

Saturday’s events continued a trend in recent years of excessive drinking and violence during Picnic Day, which used to be better known for its agricultural exhibits and dachshund races. The worst trouble has primarily occurred off campus, near the college town’s many bars and fraternity houses.

Authorities have blamed out-of-town visitors for many of the problems. City and state officials have said their hands are tied as far as limiting alcohol sales on Picnic Day, though some bars and restaurants have voluntarily reduced hours and stopped offering lower-priced drink specials.

Excessive partying that turned violent ended Pioneer Days at Chico State University in 1987 and the Poly Royal at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in 1990. Ending Picnic Day was discussed briefly after a particularly rowdy celebration in 2010, but the tradition, lucrative for both business owners and the city, has continued amid efforts to contain it.

The city in recent years has sought to reduce Picnic Day problems by establishing a safety enhancement zone in the downtown area and near the campus, doubling fines in that area for violations of open container laws, public urination and being drunk in public. Signs are posted at major access points and at locations within the zone warning of the enhanced fines for specific offenses.

Since 2011, a heavy police presence has become the norm in central Davis during the yearly April event, when the usually family-friendly downtown is packed with revelers, and many residents stay home or leave for the day.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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