Sydney Anne Saniao had planned to spend her first full day of vacation in California with friends at the State Fair, riding a few rides and having fun. But, she said, “It ended on a bad note.”
Saniao, 18, sat outside Sacramento County Main Jail on Tuesday after being freed from county custody. She was arrested at Cal Expo on Friday on suspicion of assault. Her arrest was one of three that occurred on the fair’s opening night, which saw several brawls, the ejection of dozens of people, an injury to a State Fair police officer, the early closing of the fair’s admission gates and accusations of racial profiling.
Prosecutors declined to file charges against Saniao, who lives in Federal Way, Wash. Sacramento County district attorney’s spokeswoman Shelly Orio on Wednesday offered a one-sentence statement by email on why her office did not pursue charges: “There is insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
When asked to elaborate, Orio responded, “That is all we are providing.”
Margaret Mohr, State Fair deputy general manager, said she couldn’t comment on the matter “because the District Attorney exercises independent prosecutorial discretion and is the final authority on this issue.”
Saniao, who weeks ago graduated from Federal Way High School near Seattle, recounted the events of July 14 to The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday, calling her encounter with arresting officers “confusing.”
Saniao said she was defending her friends from an attack by older adults at the fairgrounds when she was tackled “like I was a guy” by a pair of officers, identified in arrest records as members of the Fulton-El Camino Park District Police Department. Mohr would not explain why officers form the Fulton-El Camino Park District Police were patrolling the fair, but in previous years the fair has hired officers from other agencies to work part time.
“It was kind of confusing at first because me and my friends were kind of the victims of the situation, because we were getting jumped on by 30-year-olds and we’re all 17- and 18-year-olds and we’re the ones who were put out,” Saniao said. “I planned on going to the fair with my friends, ride on a couple rides, have a good time. But that ended on a bad note. I got booked for no reason and I’m just getting out. They didn’t tell me when I was going to court, what was going to happen to me. It was crazy.”
Saniao said an older group of men and women she believed to be in their 30s and inebriated started a fight with a teen in her group of 17-and 18-year-olds late Friday. Saniao said she was ejected from the fair and arrested after trying to defend her friends from the older group.
“We were the victims in this. They attacked us. They were old and drinking beer. They were drunk – super drunk,” she said, still wearing the brightly colored blue summer wrap she wore Friday night.
“The guys were fighting and one of the girls – the wife of one of the guys – hit my friend real good,” Saniao said. “They’re in their mid-30s on a 17-year-old. I looked over and I see my other friend on the (ground). I was helping her and went to get my purse and the police full-on tackled me like I was a guy,” she said. “I’m just happy I’m out.”
Jim Brown, deputy chief of Fulton-El Camino Park District Police Department, was reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon but said he was unavailable to speak with a reporter.