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‘My Child is Not the Same’: California Family and Community Call for Officers’ Termination After Police Reportedly Assaulted 11-year-old Black Boy for ’Horseplay’ at State Fair 

A California family is asking for the town to identify and terminate the officers that tackled and injured a young Black boy at the California State Fair. Despite law enforcement claiming the child was being detained for stealing property from a vendor and acting recklessly at the fair, community leaders are outraged saying the 11-year-old’s civil rights were violated during the process, and are now calling for the officers’ bodycams to be released to the public.

On Tuesday, July 26, Elijah Hunter, a preteen Black child from the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove, says he was assaulted by Cal Expo police while he was attending the free Kids Day event at this year’s state fair, resulting in him having to go to a local hospital for treatment to his injuries, according to KCRA 3.

The family is asking for transparency’s sake the names of each officer associated with the incident to be revealed and for their bodycams to be released to the public. They are also asking for their badges to be turned in.

At a press conference, held on Monday, Aug. 1, the boy’s mother, Cynthia Martin, standing with her lawyer and members of the Greater Sacramento chapter of the NAACP, described seeing her son’s shirt drenched in blood after the altercation and stated that the police were aware of the harm, they caused her son.

She said, “They [Cal Expo police] knew that they injured him because they provided the first-aid before we even made it to Kaiser hospital, where he received further treatment.”

Darla Givens, a Cal Expo representative, disputed allegations the child was seriously hurt. In a statement, she said he suffered a small cut and that officers only approached the boy after being notified that he was trying to steal from fair vendors. 

Photographs of the boy’s injuries were submitted by the family to KCRA 3. The news outlet reported the boy did not have severe wounds save “a bandage on one of his elbows and a visible blood stain on his shirt about the size of a nickel.”

According to Finger Lakes Times, Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter Sacramento believes the extent of the boy’s injury should not matter. The officers should not have mistreated him.

“There is nothing that validates grown men doing what they did to him. There’s no reason to tackle a child,” said Faison. “Any level of injury is unacceptable.”

Police reported Hunter climbed over a safety fence, trying to escape them and at one time almost was hit by a roller coaster ride.

Martin says her son was not stealing, but horseplaying with other children, and officers nabbed him claiming he tried to jump over a fence. She said Martin was the only child grabbed by the cops for one reason: he was the only Black child in the group of boys.

“There was some jockeying about who was going to get the front seat,” FOX 40 reports attorney Mark Merin said about the boys playing. “I would think it’s suspicious if there is a group of children and only the Black child is picked out. It raises some questions.” 

“He was the only child that got beaten by police,” Martin added. “The other children do not look like him. In our neighborhood, most of the people don’t look like us. We have worked hard to create a fair and stable environment.”

She continued by saying the fair is a family tradition, “[We] come here and let them be children, have fun.”

“Unfortunately, [this time] we met a nightmare, a life-scarring event,” she said. “The police terrorized my family and my child, an event etched in my brain forever. My child is not the same.” 

According to the mother, since the incident, Hunter has become withdrawn.

Betty Williams from the NAACP said her issue is how officers handled his delinquency, particularly since he was a minor.

“What makes him different from any other 11-year-old?” she rhetorically asked. 

Answering herself, Williams said, “I’ll tell you what it is. He’s Black. He’s a Black man, a Black male. It doesn’t matter your age when it comes to this society and law enforcement. You are treated differently.”

On behalf of the family, Merin expressed concerns about a no trespassing document Hunter was asked to sign without a guardian or family member present, saying, “It’s outrageous that these officers would think that it’s acceptable. Then making him sign something that he had no knowledge of.”

Officials from Cal Expo said the document is standard for any fairgoer determined to have violated their policies on code of conduct. It affirms that the person is not allowed back to the location and that they will not return.

The child was also interrogated without the consent of his parents for 30 minutes.

“No child should be interrogated without the parents present,” Martin remarked. “They slammed the door in my face and said no. When I tried to push my way in, they threatened to arrest me.” 

The Cal Expo and the State Fair released a statement regarding the incident, saying, “The safety of all fairgoers, especially our youth, is our top priority at the California State Fair. That is why we have a code of conduct policy in place for all fairgoers.” 

In the prepared remarks, Cal Expo said the incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. and that despite it being late in the evening, Hunter was not attended to by a guardian or parent. It was further observed that Hunter was “demonstrating dangerous behavior” and had climbed over a restricted and fenced area, closed off because it could lead to someone getting hit by the roller coaster.

“Cal Expo Police were initially notified about this youth by fair vendors indicating he was attempting to steal items,” the statement continued. “After a short chase, the boy was detained by Cal Expo Police and a small cut was addressed with a Band-Aid.”

The statement addressed the boy being questioned by officers and said, “We believe the Cal Expo Police followed all proper policies to quell the situation and keep the minor safe.” 

Merin said he will be submitting a government tort claim and waiting for a response from Cal Expo to be submitted within a window of 45 days. This motion is a precursor for the federal civil lawsuit the family seeks to file.

“He’s just a child. They brought him down by choking him. They manhandled him and used force, so immediately there’s false arrest,” Merin said. 

“They obviously used excessive force. Then they took him out of the view of his mother which violates her due process. This puts Cal Expo on notice that this is a big issue.”

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