Elected officials and religious leaders backing Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones are ignoring a central question: Did Mikel McIntyre have to die, or could Sacramento County deputies have done something different to avoid killing him?
Through a conspiracy of silence and diversion, they are helping Jones avoid answering this one basic question, a question we have a right to ask — and have answered.
Rick Braziel, formerly the county’s inspector general, was trying to answer just that when he critiqued how deputies handled a call about McIntyre, a mentally disturbed black man, that ended with a deputy shooting him six times from the rear and killing him. Braziel put his suggestions for better training and tactics into a public report, which led to a hissy fit from Jones. Jones ultimately forced Braziel out of office, leaving the county with no inspector general and an ugly fight about what transparency and accountability mean.
One of the most disturbing parts of this mess is how many other so-called civic leaders have jumped on Jones’ dog-whistling bandwagon and failed to ask the elemental questions that decency and accountability demand, instead trying to bury the real issues under slurs and slams.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
“(Braziel’s) report gave evaluations and critiques (on use of force and decision making) that could be misleading if considered without the benefit of the DA’s full investigation,” wrote Supervisor Sue Frost on her Facebook page last week.
It’s hard to know where to start with this comment and this Supervisor. She knows the District Attorney reviews deputy shootings from a legal perspective and the IG is tasked with reviewing policy and procedure. Or maybe Frost doesn’t know that the DA and IG have separates jobs and mandates. Based on her comments at board meetings, Frost strongly gives the impression of not knowing things.
But in this case, it may be a case of Frost not caring about anything except what Jones says. She completely disregards the issue of trying to learn from a brutal shooting death of man who was running away from deputies when he was struck in the back with a hail of bullets on the shoulder of Highway 50. It was May 8, 2017, just at the end of rush hour.
Based on Jones’ messaging and comments such as those by Frost, one could reasonably deduce that McIntyre’s life was of little concern. There also seems to be no concern or consideration given to deputies firing on one of the busiest commuter arteries in the region.
Jones made a joke about how his deputies haven’t killed anyone on the freeway since then. His cronies like Frost say “ditto” to whatever he says.
And then you have Mindi Russell, a law enforcement “chaplain,” who stood up at the Dec. 4 supervisors meeting and said community members speak “untruths” about Jones. She concluded her comments by looking at a packed crowd — a crowd that included the family of a man who died in the custody of deputies — and said, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Well, Russell is right in one sense: We can’t handle a sheriff who thumbs his nose at legitimate community concerns. We can’t handle the idea that the sheriff and his cronies care little or nothing about the lives of people who matter nothing to them. We can’t handle it when the sheriff uses racial and ethnic baiting tactics to fire up his base. We can’t handle faith leaders who put their allegiance to Jones over the feelings of grieving people. And we can’t handle a law enforcement community that circle the wagons as if it were 1978 and not 2018.
How do they circle that wagons? District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert not only finds the McIntyre shooting legal, but takes a year to announce that conclusion while refusing to answer direct questions about her findings.
She refuses to talk about how she sat on the McIntyre report — and others — until well after she was re-elected in June.
And then you have state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who could do something about Jones, but has a his own case of lockjaw.
Is it any wonder community members would be concerned about this conspiracy of silence among people who not only enforce the law, but hide behind it when it suits them?
What about the question of saving lives? Why would Jones be against that? Or Frost? Or Russell? Or Schubert? Or Becerra? I’m sure Schubert and Becerra would say they are for saving lives and improving outcomes. Braziel thinks the McIntyre death could have been prevented and for that he was banished, an attempt to push him into silence.
But by remaining quiet while Jones gets rid of Braziel, the DA and the AG are complicit.
Their silence means they go along with Jones as he maligns Braziel and disregards the concerns of the community asking for more accountability and a focus on preventing fatal shootings when they can be prevented.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, there comes a time when silence is betrayal.
Sam Stanton and Molly Sullivan reported last week that Jones was bent out of shape about Braziel for a while. He was afraid Braziel might run for Sheriff.
“People are trying to make it to the Inspector General versus the sheriff but I think it’s really a sheriff who doesn’t like oversight,” Braziel said in an interview with Stanton. “If you look at professional sports teams, the best of them look at game film to figure out how better to do it the next time.”
Why would anyone be against such introspection? Why would Jones and his cronies make it about “liberals” and Black Lives Matter and suggest that the democratic process of questioning authority is “hate”?
What’s wrong with increasing knowledge?
But for the last three months, a citizens movement has grown against him and I don’t think he saw that coming. It didn’t have to happen but it did because Jones — in his heart of hearts — is a small and fearful man.
That didn’t used to be the case. Jones was once a reasonable, cordial, thoughtful man who, quite frankly, was fun to be around. And he’s smart. It’s no accident these questions aren’t being answered.
Ever since Jones ran for Congress in 2016, he’s become an ideologue who only seems to care about the people who support him.
The movement against Jones grew because he has tried to silence every person who has opposed him, whether directly or through his willing proxies like Frost and Russell. It has grown because of the silence of other leaders like Schubert and Becerra, who are supposed to speak out, but only do so when it suits them.
A movement of citizens is growing to get answers. They are not going to be silenced.