Another reason to support police reform. The troubling case of Mikel Laney McIntyre

Brigett McIntyre reflects on the death of her son Mikel at a relative's home in May.
Brigett McIntyre reflects on the death of her son Mikel at a relative's home in May. rpench@sacbee.com

The case of Mikel Laney McIntyre was deeply troubling even before we learned the details of it, laid out last week in a report on the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department from Inspector General Rick Braziel.

Already we knew that McIntyre was in the midst of a mental health crisis in May 2017, when his family twice called 911 in hopes of placing the 32-year-old father on a involuntary psychiatric hold. The deputies told him to leave the house instead.

And we knew that, hours later, McIntyre was pursued and then killed by deputies on the shoulder of Highway 50 after someone called 911 about a man hitting and choking a woman in car outside of a Ross Dress for Less store in Rancho Cordova.

What we now know thanks to Braziel’s report is truly disturbing.

Three deputies — Gabriel Rodriguez, Ken Becker and Jeffrey Wright — let loose 29 bullets in their efforts to bring down McIntyre, chasing him from a parking lot to an underpass. He threw rocks at the cops and they returned with gunfire. One deputy fired 19 shots alone while walking across six lanes of the highway at the end of the rush hour.

Meanwhile, the office of Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has been taking its sweet time to complete its review of the case. In fact, it has taken so long that all of the deputies involved in the case are back on active duty, and we don’t even know yet whether they broke law.

They all say they acted in self-defense after McIntyre pelted them and a police dog, but the D.A. has yet to make a determination. That’s no way to rebuild trust with a public often skeptical of law enforcement, particularly after the police shooting of an unarmed Stephon Clark earlier this year.

Sacramento County deputies were responsible for five fatal shootings last year, according to Braziel’s report. And officers with the Sacramento Police Department had another five fatalities. And yet, Schubert’s office hasn’t released a report on an officer-involved shooting since September 2017 — for a death that happened in November 2016.

“Not one officer has ever reached out to me,” said Brigett McIntyre, who spoke to The Bee about her son and has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. “I never even got his wallet back.”

This cannot continue to be the status quo in Sacramento County or anywhere else in California. Law enforcement officers cannot continue to act like unhinged cowboys, sometimes killing unarmed people, while the public and the families of the deceased are forced to wait months and for years to find out what actually happened. And lethal force cannot continue to be the first option, rather than the last resort.

This is all the more reason for the Legislature to quickly approve a pair of police reform bills when they return from summer recess next month.

Assembly Bill 931 would raise the legal standard for when cops can use deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary,” making the preservation of human life paramount and de-escalation techniques a requirement rather than an option. The Senate Public Safety Committee passed the bill, Assemblymembers Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, in June and it is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Aug. 6.

Senate Bill 1421 would open up disciplinary records to public scrutiny, but only if a cop shoots, kills, seriously injures or sexually assaults someones, or is proven to have planted evidence, committed perjury or otherwise been dishonest. The Senate approved the bill from Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in May and the Assembly Public Safety Committee did the same in June.

In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors should give the McIntyre the peace they deserve and ask Braziel to release his full report on the case immediately. Typically, as a matter of courtesy, the inspector general doesn’t release his findings until after the district attorney does, but there’s no legal reason he can’t do it sooner.

Schubert and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones may both have been re-elected, but they don’t have a mandate to keep stonewalling the public. It’s time for them to do the right thing.