The Davis Police Department has launched an investigation into the Picnic Day fight that injured two officers and led to the arrest of three people, the department announced Wednesday.
The review will include interviews with witnesses and officers involved, as well as an examination of several video recordings of the April 22 incident.
Some witnesses blamed police for causing a hostile response from Picnic Day participants. Three people were arrested for their part in the violence in which one officer suffered injuries to his eye and face and another was treated for a bleeding head wound caused by a bottle, according to Davis police.
“The investigation will go where the evidence takes us,” said former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, who has been hired by the Davis City Attorney’s Office to handle the probe.
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Police Chief Darren Pytel said the city took the “very rare” step of hiring an outside investigator because of allegations that police used excessive force and exhibited racial bias.
The McGinness investigation will look not only at the officers’ behavior but also at the department’s overall response, Pytel said.
The department on Wednesday released a dashcam video recording of the incident. The video provided by a citizen witness shows as many as 50 young people spilling into the slow lane of the roadway. When a gray minivan makes a U-turn and pulls next to the group of people, punches are thrown immediately as the doors open. Several men can be seen punching and kicking the plainclothes officers.
Alexander Reide Craver, 22, and Elijah James Williams, 19, both of West Sacramento, and Antwoine Rashadek Perry, 21, of Elk Grove were arrested for their part in the altercation.
Craver was arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery, assaulting a peace officer, felony obstruction of a peace officer and assault with a deadly weapon. Perry was arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery and felony obstruction of a peace officer. Williams was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer, aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and felony obstruction of a peace officer.
McGinness, who hosts a radio show on KFBK, said it was a “good decision” by the department and the city to release the video. The department is asking the public to watch the video to help identify witnesses. Police also are looking for additional video to help aid the investigation.
“Sometimes video evidence has a negligible value” because it doesn’t show the whole picture. In this case, when coupled with accounts of what happened, it “does have value,” McGinness said.
What happened after officers arrived and found a mass of people spilling onto a nearly gridlocked Russell Boulevard is the subject of some debate.
“Before the officers could act, the unmarked police vehicle was surrounded by a large hostile group and several subjects began to yell threats at the police officers in the car,” the news release states.
Witness Isabel Lynch, who attends Sierra College in Rocklin, said it was unclear – at least initially – if the men arriving in an unmarked vehicle were officers.
McGinness said he has seen some of the video and that the officers were wearing badges and one of the three was wearing a tactical vest.
Regardless of whether they were clearly identified, it’s still against the law to punch and kick anyone, McGinness said.
Editor’s note: This story was changed May 11 to note that the officers were in plainclothes.