A Rancho Cordova, California, police officer was caught on video hitting a teen while trying to detain him over a cigar. Video of the incident was posted on social media by the 14-year-old boy’s family on April 27 hours after it occurred in. The video clip quickly went viral, with more than 2 million views. Authorities have said the incident is under investigation.
The officer has not been identified. Family members have identified the boy as Elijah, and have used #JusticeforJah to try to get attention to the incident. The boy is black and the officer is white. In a statement, the Rancho Cordova Police Department said, “These are the facts as we understand them at this time. This investigation is in its infancy and the facts as we understand them now are subject to change as we conduct a more thorough and complete examination of the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
The city of Rancho Cordova contracts with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for its police services. Sergeant Tess Deterding, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said in an April 28 statement, “The Sheriff’s Office and Rancho Cordova Police Department, however, have proactively started an investigation into the use of force by our deputy in order to gain a complete and thorough understanding of the events that took place during this incident. Maintaining the public trust and remaining transparent are of paramount importance to the Sheriff’s Office and Rancho Cordova Police Department.”
You can watch the video and read more about the incident here:
The 14-Year Boy Had a Swisher Sweet, a Type of Cigar & He Was Cited for Resisting Arrest, Police & His Family Say
The Rancho Cordova Police Department, through the sheriff’s department statement, said the incident occurred on April 27 when a “Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) officer was “proactively patrolling” in the Mills Station and Mather Field Road area. According to police, the officer was there because of “complaints from citizens about hand-to-hand sales of alcohol, tobacco and drugs to minors.”
Deterding, the sheriff’s department spokesperson, said in a statement:
It’s important to put video footage into context, especially in relation to a use of force incident. In this case, the deputy saw what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and juvenile. As the deputy turned around, he lost sight of the adult, who left the area. When the deputy approached the juvenile, the juvenile was uncooperative and refused to give the deputy basic identifying information. He told the deputy he was 18 years old. Having reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, the deputy attempted to detain the juvenile so he could conduct further investigation. The juvenile became physically resistive at that time, causing the deputy to lose control of his handcuffs, which landed several feet away. The deputy attempted to maintain control of the juvenile without his handcuffs and while alone waiting for his partners to arrive and assist him.
Deterding said, “Ultimately, the deputy recovered tobacco products from the 14-year-old juvenile, which is presumably the reason for his resistance. The juvenile was cited and released to his guardians.”
His sister said on Twitter, “He was charged with ‘resisting arrest.’ But what was he even being arrested for?? For having a swisher? & they ended up letting him go so what was all of this for?? Smh he was left with scratches and chest pains! this was so unnecessary!”
According to Jah’s family, who posted the video on social media, the officers found a Swisher Sweet, a flavored cigar. Justin Tufono, the boy’s uncle, wrote on Instagram, “This is my 14-year-old nephew being shoved into the ground by a Rancho Cordova police officer triple his size. 14 F*CKING YEARS OLD! And he’s handling him like a man equal his size! For what? Possession of a swisher? Is all this sh*t really necessary? He already had him held down and he felt the need to punch him AFTER shoving his face into the ground!? He acts like he f*cking hurt somebody!”
The boy’s sister added, “My baby brother who is 14 years old. All of this over a swisher … with look of triumph there’s more footage but I wasn’t able to upload it all. Please repost, we just want justice for my baby!Loudly crying faceHundred points symbol #JUSTICE4JAH.”
The Sheriff’s Department ‘This Type of Situation Is Hard on Everyone,’ While the Boy’s Family Says He ‘Has a Pre-Existing Health Condition That Could Be Fatal Under This Kind of Stress’
Deterding said in a statement, “This type of situation is hard on everyone — the young man, who resisted arrest, and the officer, who would much rather have him cooperate. The community should know our deputies have a heart for the Rancho Cordova community, especially for the youth they serve through the schools, PAL sports, and our new Youth Center.”
The boy’s sister said on Twitter, “And to add on: my brother has a serious heart condition that could be triggered very easily by being hit in his chest/back! He’s a kid and has never been in any kind of trouble with the law! He was very scared and in so much pain!!!”
A family friend wrote on Twitter, “RCPD brutally tackled and hit my best friend’s 14 year old brother today over a swisher sweet! The officer had no reason to brutalize and traumatize this boy like this! He has a pre existing health condition which could be fatal under this kind of stress! Unjustifiable!”
Tufono, the boy’s uncle, wrote on Facebook, “Little man is alright. He does want to let everyone know, it happened, don’t threaten the cop in any way and he doesn’t condone any type of physical or verbal retaliation. Thanks for the love and support everyone.”
He added, “I remember telling him a while back that he may be half black, but the world will just see him as BLACK and that he has to walk and experience the world in a very different way… didn’t expect him to experiencing this so early.”
Senator Kamala Harris Called the Incident a ‘Horrific Abuse of Power’
The video has sparked outrage on social media. Officials and politicians have weighed in, including U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a former Democratic presidential candidate who was California’s attorney general and a prosecutor in San Francisco. Harris tweeted, “This is a horrific abuse of power. This officer must be held accountable.”
Julian Castro, another former Democratic presidential candidate who was the former mayor of San Antonio and President Obama’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, tweeted, “This video of a @RanchoCordovaPD officer beating a 14-year-old is sickening, and demands immediate action. How many of these videos must we see before we do something about police violence in this country?”
Tufono said on Facebook:
This is my 14-year-old nephew Elijah being restrained by this Rancho Cordova cop who felt the need to manhandle him. Look how skinny my little man is!!! ?. That cop is triple his size!!!
What did he do for all that???
Petty theft? No need for all that.
Possession of Marijuana? No need for all that.
He didn’t hurt anybody. No need for all that.
Was all this f*cking necessary?!
He didn’t f*cking murder anyone! He’s not armed!! Why the f*cking harsh treatment?
I remember telling Elijah, ‘you’re gonna experience the world in a very different way and I want you to know that it isn’t fair,’…
My blood is boiling. Why did this man feel the need to shove his face in the dirt and throw punches after obviously restraining him with all his weight!
Note: he has a chronic heart condition that prevents him from doing strenuous activity. This could’ve gone a whole different way if he had an episode during all this.
Berry Accius, of the Sacramento-based Voice of the Youth nonprofit, told CapRadio it was “more unnecessary excessive force.” He added, “You’d think that, in a pandemic, there’d be a little more care when it comes how he’d react. At the end of the day, there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.”
Rebecca Kavanaugh, a New York defense attorney wrote on Twitter, “The family have asked that this video be shared in the hope that the police officer is fired and criminal charges are brought. #JUSTICE4JAH”