Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones came to the defense of his deputies Monday after one of them was accused of striking a protester during a rally for slain man Stephon Clark over the weekend.
At an afternoon press conference from his office, Jones showed dash cam footage from the incident in which a deputy’s SUV sent 61-year-old Wanda Cleveland flying to the curb as it struggled to get through a crowd of demonstrators Saturday night, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Cleveland, a longtime activist who’s a regular at city council meetings, was left with bruises on her arm and head from the collision and had to be hospitalized. Folks who witnessed the incident said the deputy sped off while Cleveland laid in street waiting to be helped.
Jones, said this wasn’t the case, however, claiming he believed the deputy likely didn’t know he hit the local grandmother with his car. Cleveland is spotted in the dash cam video at the front of the SUV before she is hit and tossed to the right, falling onto the curb. Bystanders are heard screaming as they rush to her aid.
“There is a high likelihood that he didn’t even know that he collided with that protester,” Jones told reporters.
The sheriff suggested that his deputy might have been distracted by the furor and “threat” of demonstrators on his left side, so he didn’t notice Cleveland walking. Jones backtracked moments later, however, saying he hadn’t spoken to the deputy involved and wasn’t privy to any statements the driver may have made about the collision.
“I honestly have no idea,” he said in response to a journalist’s question about whether the deputy knew he had struck Cleveland.
According to the Bee, the sheriff went on to blame “professional protesters” and outside agitators for infiltrating the peaceful event and stirring things up. Jones described the crash as “an unfortunate event that punctuated an otherwise fantastic evening,” noting that no officers or protesters were harmed, except Cleveland. No arrests were made either.
The sheriff’s candor didn’t go over so well with some people, however. Lawyers Claire White and Mark Reichel, who say they are representing Cleveland, were quick to challenge Jones’ claims.
“It is not possible that the officer did not see her,” Reichel said in a statement. “It appears from all evidence that he hit her intentionally. The [deputy] drove away from an injured woman intentionally.” He added that protesters were being allowed to walk in the street at the time his client was hit.
California Highway Patrol is currently investigating the incident, as is the sheriff’s department.