Crime - Sacto 911

Yolo County says deputies acted ‘in good faith’ when they dumped homeless man in Sacramento

After a video surfaced last week of two Yolo County deputies appearing to drop off a homeless man north of downtown Sacramento, the county Monday said the Yolo Sheriff’s Office is “reviewing the incident.”

“At this point, it appears the deputies were acting in good faith to assist the individual by providing transportation late at night consistent with the individual’s desires,” Jenny Tan, spokeswoman for Yolo County, said in a prepared statement.

A video published by Public Safety News shows the deputies dropping the man off Sept. 25 next to the McDonald’s on Richards Boulevard in Sacramento’s River District, an industrial neighborhood along Interstate 5 north of the downtown railyard.

Public Safety News wrote on its website that an employee “observed two Yolo County Sheriff’s units roll quickly into the south end of the parking lot and stop crosswise across the parking spaces against the building.” The video shows the two deputies watch as the man unloads his cart and plastic shopping bags from their patrol vehicle. The deputies left after the man unloaded his belongings, according to Public Safety News.

“When you see two vehicles pull up and an individual being left in a public place, that’s a concern,” said Yolo County Board of Supervisors Chair Don Saylor. “We don’t like that there’s an appearance of dumping.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg sent a letter Friday seeking answers for the deputies’ actions.

“My colleagues and I are very unhappy about the implications of your office’s action in this case,” Steinberg said in a letter to Yolo County Sheriff Tom Lopez, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council.

In their news release Monday, Yolo officials said, “Any incident like this is an opportunity to step back, evaluate and make improvements for the future. This incident highlights the fact that the challenges facing the homeless population are not confined to a single jurisdiction and require regional thinking and action.”

Steinberg responded Monday, saying “This unfortunate incident reminds us that homelessness is a statewide problem, and it’s crucial that cities and counties coordinate their responses so that each jurisdiction is doing its fair share to address it and to treat people on the street with the dignity and care they deserve. I look forward to working more closely with Yolo and other counties in the region to make sure that our mutual systems for helping those in need are as strong as possible.

“I look forward to sitting down with Yolo County and other regional leaders in the coming days to address both the specific incident and the procedures that allowed it.”

Yolo County Sheriff Tom Lopez responded to Steinberg’s letter Monday afternoon, saying the matter should be “examined professionally and without prejudice.”

“It is important you understand that during the evening of September 25, 2019, the deputies acted in a manner consistent with my expectations in that this individual was treated with dignity, respect and his requests were honored,” Lopez said.

Lopez also said the deputies spent 34 minutes with the man and “did not make any decisions hastily.”

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors and administrators will approach officials of the city and county of Sacramento to develop “regional approaches” for addressing homelessness and providing transportation for homeless individuals, Saylor said. The county currently has no policy for dropping homeless individuals off in another jurisdiction.

“Yolo County has no interest in dumping individuals in other jurisdictions. Our interest is serving the population and helping people find the right path,” Saylor said.

In a statement issued to Public Safety News last week, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office said the deputies had been dispatched to South River Road for a call of a suspicious person. They found the homeless man about an hour later and he told deputies he was from the Midwest and was unfamiliar with the area.

“The area where the man was contacted is rural and void of any type of services,” Lt. Matt Davis of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement included in Steinberg’s letter. “The subject requested a ride back to Sacramento and asked to be dropped off where he could find some food (he was offered money from the deputies but declined as he had his own).“

The Sheriff’s Office and the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency are reviewing the incident and “have already begun work to improve service provision and strengthen transfer options while continuing to serve all of Yolo County’s communities,” Tan said in the statement Monday.

“The sheriff’s deputies took pity on him and did a humanitarian thing and it backfired on them,” said Yolo County Supervisor Gary Sandy. “We will do our best to clarify expectations and come up with a protocol for when we do encounter a similar situation.”

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Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.