In less than a minute, a police stop over claims of jaywalking devolved into what many are calling a troubling example of excessive force: a white officer walloping a black man with more than a dozen punches on a Sacramento street.
The officer involved has been suspended, Sacramento police said, and is the subject of an internal and a criminal investigation.
On Monday, Nandi Cain Jr. had just gotten off work and was headed to his Sacramento apartment when he noticed an officer approaching from behind him with his hand on his gun, according to police accounts, videos of the event and local news reports. Cain put his hands up as the officer approached, but continued to walk away slowly. He asked the police officer the reason for the stop, then protested when he heard it:
“You were jaywalking,” the officer said on the dash-cam video released by the police department this week.
“I looked both ways,” Cain replied. “You’re harassing me. I just got off work. You’re trying to pull me over for nothing.”
The officer, a two-year member of the Sacramento police force who has not been identified by authorities, then told Cain to stop or he would take him to the ground.
“So, what, you holding on to your gun?” Cain asked. “You a big man because you got a gun? You going to hold onto your gun?”
The officer stepped forward and grabbed Cain, slamming him to the ground. The officer then straddled Cain and punched him repeatedly. Soon other officers sped to the scene and helped subdue and handcuff Cain.
The entire incident was caught on video by several police dash cams and the cellphone of an acquaintance of Cain’s who was passing by. In their statement, Sacramento police officials said they have reviewed the video and “determined the officer’s actions appeared to be outside of policy.”
“The actions of the involved Sacramento Police Officer are disturbing and does not appear to be reasonable based upon the circumstances,” the statement said.
Police also said there were “insufficient grounds” to charge Cain with jaywalking. An officer delivered paperwork to the jail to have him released, though Cain still faces a court date on an outstanding warrant.
In an interview Tuesday, Cain told Sacramento NBC-affiliate KCRA that he feared the officers were going to shoot and kill him, even after he was handcuffed.
“I thought I was going to be like the next Trayvon Martin,” he said. “I thought, as soon as they got me on the ground and they start putting my arms in different positions. I felt like they were going to draw a gun out and shoot me in my back or try to break my arms off or something.
” … I think the best way I fought for my life was just silence … Just (be) silent. Don’t say nothing. Don’t move. Don’t do nothing. Don’t give them a reason. Because that’s what they wanted, a reason for me to pop off and get the reaction that they wanted out of me.”
On Monday night, 40 demonstrators gathered in front of one of the police department’s substations, with many wearing shirts that said “Black Lives Matter,” according to the Sacramento Bee. Cain’s girlfriend, who was among the demonstrators, said he was “still in pain and recovering.”
The case occurred as police departments across the United States are under increased scrutiny amid claims that they are too quick to use force against blacks and other minorities. So far this year, 284 people have been shot and killed by police, according to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Of those, 25 percent were black. Last year, 963 people were shot and killed by police, including 233 black people.
Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the Justice Department to review reform agreements at police departments across the nation. The review includes some consent decrees that encouraged police departments to train their officers on how to better resolve situations without using force, according to The Post’s Sari Horwitz, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery.