The authority to use deadly force is a solemn responsibility given to law enforcement. It represents a contract between every sworn officer who carries a gun and the public they serve. The power comes with the commitment and trust that lethal force will be used sparingly and only under strictly prescribed rules.
On May 8, 2017, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies threw that trust into question when they fatally shot a 32-year-old man named Mikel McIntyre.
McIntyre was mentally disturbed. Twice that day, his family had called authorities for help, but police failed to intervene, instead telling McIntyre to leave the home he was visiting.
During an initial confrontation with a deputy hours later, McIntyre threw a rock that struck the deputy in the head. The deputy, Jeff Wright, fired twice as McIntyre fled, then made the choice to stop firing.
McIntyre ran under a freeway overpass near Zinfandel Road and Highway 50 where he surprised K9 officer Ken Becker. McIntyre threw another rock, striking Becker’s dog in the muzzle, and Becker in the leg.
Becker fired as McIntyre ran away from him along the shoulder of the highway. A third deputy, Gabriel Rodriguez, who recognized McIntyre from the earlier mental health call, fired 18 shots at him.
At least seven shots hit McIntyre from the rear, including one bullet that entered his back, hit his liver and caused massive internal injuries.
No one should throw rocks at law enforcement officers, even if they are mentally ill. Period. Officers put their lives on the line every hour of every day to protect the community. We are and continue to be profoundly grateful for that sacrifice.
But officers should be trained to recognize precisely what constitutes a danger. In this case, a man received the death penalty for throwing rocks.
Last week, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert declined to file charges against any of the officers.
Mikel McIntyre is not here to fight Schubert’s decision.
As The Bee’s Marcos Breton noted, Schubert received $100,000 in campaign contributions in May from law enforcement agencies. Indeed, Schubert has never filed an indictment against an officer in a deadly use-of-force case since she’s been in office.
In the McIntyre case, it is not at all clear that best practices were followed by responding deputies.
Newly re-elected Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones hasn’t helped matters with his curious and defensive response. He has declared that an independent investigation headed by former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, the inspector general of the sheriff’s department, isn’t valid, and that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has no oversight power because Jones is an independently elected official.
Jones has acted less like an elected official and more like a feudal lord. His anti-democratic responses leave us sickened. In what was apparently an attempt at humor, Jones told The Bee’s Anita Chabria, “Well, we haven’t shot anybody on the freeway since.”
This flip and callous response, combined with his continued assertions that he welcomes oversight but under his rules (which were co-crafted with Sacramento County Executive Nav Gill), is an insult not only to the family of Mikel McIntyre, but the people of Sacramento County.
This community should be insulted by Jones’ attitude, and, in so doing, should demand the following:
▪ The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office should be subject to independent investigations by the inspector general without preconditions or impediment.
▪ The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office should immediately release all video in the McIntyre case, and adopt a policy of releasing video as the Sacramento Police Department has done.
▪ The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors should maintain a powerful role in the oversight and supervision of the sheriff’s office.
There will be a Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 4 to deal with this matter.
Citizens of Sacramento County deserve to be protected, and they deserve protection without fear that their protectors could injure or kill them absent the highest standard of cause and without the commitment to provide clarity when the outcome is fatal.