A homeless man was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on Friday after he reportedly hurled a knife at one officer and assaulted another during a violent exchange and foot chase in south Sacramento.
The department on Saturday identified the man as Som Chanthachem, 57, in a news release that disclosed he has been booked on suspicion of resisting arrest, battery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Two of the three officers who responded to the scene were treated for minor injuries, according to the CHP release.
The incident began when state Department of Transportation workers encountered Chanthachem about 1 p.m. Friday while they were removing a homeless camp near a freeway onramp near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to the release.
He threatened the crew with a knife, so they called in two CHP officers assigned to escort them. Chanthachem “attempted to assault the the responding officers with a knife,” the department release says, prompting one officer to fire a round from a duty pistol. The shot missed. Chanthachem threw the knife, striking an officer in the thigh, then fled.
A third CHP officer arrived and chased Chanthachem, who “picked up a steel brake disc from the ground and used it to assault the officer” as he attempted to take the suspect into custody. Eventually, after being taken to the ground and jolted with a Taser, Chanthachem was subdued, taken to an area hospital and cleared, then booked at Sacramento County jail.
Asked whether CHP has specific protocols for clearing a homeless camp, department spokesman Officer Michael Bradley said: “Every approach is the same approach, whether it’s a homeless camp or a traffic stop. We try to de-escalate every issue, if possible.”
The incident comes as Sacramento continues to grapple with its homeless population amid protests by advocates over the city’s anti-camping ordinances.
Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, greeted the news with relief that Chanthachem did not meet greater harm. He has called for increased law enforcement training around mental health and other homeless-specific issues.
“I’m pleased that, in relative terms, they used some restraint, but it’s still tragic,” Erlenbusch said.