Crime - Sacto 911

Rio Vista police officer body slams woman in confrontation after traffic stop, bodycam video shows

Police cam shows officer body slam woman in Rio Vista

Rio Vista police have released body camera footage from a traffic stop incident Sunday, May 5, 2019, in which a woman was apparently body slammed. Cellphone video posted to social media had gained viral attention.
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Rio Vista police have released body camera footage from a traffic stop incident Sunday, May 5, 2019, in which a woman was apparently body slammed. Cellphone video posted to social media had gained viral attention.

Rio Vista police have released body camera footage from a traffic stop incident Sunday evening in which a woman was apparently body slammed, after cellphone video posted to social media earlier this week quickly gained viral attention.

The slam involved a family member of a woman who was pulled over in Rio Vista, and who arrived to the scene in a second vehicle, according to a news release and eight bodycam videos provided to The Sacramento Bee by the Rio Vista Police Department.

An internal investigation will be conducted into the incident, according to the news release, which the department says is standard procedure in a use-of-force incident.

Rio Vista police Chief Dan Dailey in a statement earlier this week said body camera footage would be released in the next couple of days “to show the totality of this situation.”

Police said that the incident started about 7:43 p.m. Sunday and involved a traffic stop on a dark-colored Nissan with expired tags. Police officers determined the registration had been suspended by the DMV for two years, according to the news release, and they informed the driver, Mea Thomas, that the car would be towed.

While one officer detained two passengers who exited Thomas’ car, Thomas remained in the car and briefly argued with the second officer. At about the same time, a second vehicle – a white sedan – arrived to the scene, videos show.

The video shows after Thomas exits the Nissan and after the second officer starts to search her person, that officer’s body camera appears to be knocked to the ground following the start of a scuffle.

The video resumes a few moments later, with Thomas being put in the back of the police vehicle, shoving the second officer as she does so. A detained male is also placed in the back of the patrol vehicle.

The second car’s occupants, identified by police as Deshaunna Payne and Cherish Thomas, then exited the car and walked toward the scene of the traffic stop. The news release claims Payne and Cherish Thomas “refused repeated directions and commands to remain at their car and not interfere with the original stop.”

Cherish Thomas and Payne first get back into the white car, then emerge from the vehicle again while holding their cellphones to record, bodycam video shows.

As they start to approach the scene of the traffic stop again, the first officer warns them not to come closer.

“Don’t come close to me,” the officer is heard saying in one of the videos. “You ain’t coming over by our cars right now.”

Cherish Thomas responds, “I’m not by you,” as she walks alongside the officer toward the traffic stop.

Video from each officer’s bodycam shows that the first officer grabs Cherish Thomas at this point, holding her from behind as she appears to attempt to turn back toward the traffic stop.

The struggle goes in and out of frame on the second officer’s camera in the moments before the alleged slam, and the struggle itself obscures most of the activity from view on the involved officer’s camera. Payne can be held yelling, “You’re manhandling my daughter.”

After a few seconds of grabbing Cherish Thomas, who is restrained with her hands behind her back but no handcuffs on, the first officer lifts the woman and appears to slam her to the ground with force.

The news release states that the first officer “tackled her (Cherish) to the ground in order to gain control of her while his partner stepped in to take Deshaunna Payne into custody,” saying Cherish “continued to resist” as she “tried to pull away” from the officer.

Payne then angrily approaches the first officer, her cellphone still out, and then struggles with the second officer as he attempts to restrain her, as the videos show. Payne exclaims, “Get him off my f---ing daughter now,” and appears to shove at the second officer. The news release claims Payne “tried to strike him.”

During this struggle, Payne can be heard saying, “Don’t do it,” as the screen goes dark and the second officer’s bodycam appears to fall off again.

In an uninterrupted view from the first officer’s body camera, he cuffs Cherish Thomas and keeps her prone on the ground for several minutes following the slam. At one point, he asks her how drunk she is. In a radio call to dispatch, the first officer can be heard saying, “I’m fighting one.”

During this time, a banging sound can be heard offscreen. The department’s news release says that Mea Thomas “and/or” the male passenger, who were both detained in the back of a patrol vehicle, were “attempting to escape by kicking at the door and window causing damage to the door and protective screen over the window.”

In video from the first officer’s bodycam, he tells Mea Thomas and the detained male that they damaged the door by kicking it, which they deny. The interior of the police vehicle’s doors are black, and it cannot be clearly seen in the videos whether they sustained visible damage.

Deputies with the Solano County and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office were then called to the scene for backup, according to the Rio Vista department’s news release.

Around this time, a third car arrives at the scene with two women who say they are family members of the involved parties.

The women start to approach and verbally confront the first officer, who tells them to get out of the street.

“Don’t touch me please, because I’m pregnant, like I said,” one of the women says.

“I don’t care,” the first officer says. “I’ll still take you to jail.”

He then tells the women to get out of the middle of the street. One of the women walks to the sidewalk and asks the officer to explain what’s happening to her relatives.

“This has to do with them pulling over. I ain’t gotta explain nothing to you,” the officer says.

One of the women repeatedly says the white car is hers and that she is going to drive it away.

The officers tell her not to. The two women stand by the second car for several minutes. Eventually, those two women depart while the dark Nissan and the white sedan are ultimately towed from the scene, videos show.

Payne, Mea and Cherish Thomas, and a man identified as Mychal Ivy – all Rio Vista residents – were arrested for various charges, including resisting arrest, obstructing or delaying an investigation and felony vandalism. Cherish Thomas was additionally arrested for public intoxication.

Cellphone videos taken of the body slam by Payne and one another witness were posted online and have rapidly recirculated on social media since Monday, picking up hundreds of thousands of views between multiple Facebook posts, tweets and YouTube videos.

The officers in the video were not identified by the Rio Vista Police Department, which did not indicate that either have been placed on leave.

Dailey provided no further comment Wednesday regarding the incident.

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.