80 arrests at Sacramento police shooting protest
The chief of the Sacramento Police Department defended officers who covered a 12-year-old black boy’s head with a “spit mask” on the same day as body camera footage was released showing the boy shouting “I can’t breathe!” during an arrest that went viral on social media this week.
Police released videos of the incident after a lawyer representing the boy and his family called attention to the arrest and protesters cited it as another case of police brutality in the city where Stephon Clark was shot and killed by local officers last year.
In the video, the unidentified 12-year-old boy, who is handcuffed, can be heard spitting at one of the officers as he is being walked to a police car. He confirms he spat at her when asked and kicks as a security guard wraps one of his arms around his neck. Then police pin him down until covering his head with a white bag, the “spit mask.”
“Our officers involved in this incident appropriately used a spit mask to protect themselves and defuse the situation,” Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “I am grateful that our officers were willing to proactively intervene when they observed suspicious activity, and that nobody was injured during this encounter.”
The officers allegedly inflamed the boy’s respiratory condition, California Black Media reported, by forcing him to the ground on his stomach and pressing down on his back. Family told the outlet he has breathing difficulties, especially when anxious.
“I can’t breathe!” the boy shouts repeatedly after an officer places the “spit mask” over his head. Since Eric Garner died from a police officer putting him in a chokehold in July 2014, “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry against police brutality.
Law enforcement and hospital staff use “spit masks” to prevent the transfer of saliva, which can spread some diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The arrest of the boy occurred on April 28, Sacramento Police said in the statement released Wednesday, and began when two officers saw the boy running from a security guard.
Spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler previously told The Sacramento Bee that police later released the boy to his mother, citing him for battery against a police officer and resisting officers.
“Our police should know how to handle a tiny 12-year-old boy,” Tanya Faison, Sacramento Black Lives Matter founder, told the Bee.
The incident happened about a month after Sacramento activists commemorated the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Clark. The officers involved will not be charged because they feared for their safety, a district attorney announced in March, triggering days of protests.
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