Officers working at the California Exposition & State Fair (Cal Expo) are under fire for their alleged mistreatment of a Black 11-year-old during recent fair-time festivities.
According to Cynthia Martin, a resident of Sacramento’s Elk Grove suburb, her son, 11-year-old Elijah Hunter, was assaulted by Cal Expo Police while attending Kids Day with some friends.
She alleges that officers chased her son down after simply engaging in some horseplay at the fair, and they proceeded to “tackle” the child, leaving him with some minor injuries and lingering emotional trauma.
“My child is not the same. He’s withdrawn. He’s scared,” Martin said, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“[The 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,” she added, according to KCRA 3.
KCRA 3 also reports that Hunter sustained an injury to his elbow and had “a visible blood stain on his shirt about the size of a nickel,” according to some photographs the family sent the outlet.
Mother says Cal Expo police assaulted her son, 11, and targeted him for being Black https://t.co/eed8bKwKxx
— ABC10 (@ABC10) August 2, 2022
Martin pointed out that Hunter was the only Black child among his friend group, further fueling the suspicion that the officers’ response was racially motivated.
“In the neighborhood, we live in, most people don’t look like us. His friends don’t look like him. The others have blond hair and blue eyes or brown hair and brown eyes,” she said, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“This was Kids Day, a day when families should be safe coming to the fair and not be terrorized by the police department and assaulted and have visible injuries and visible scars and emotional scars,” she continued.
However, FOX 40 reports that Cal Expo has a very different story, which a spokesperson shared in a statement.
According to the statement, Hunter was “demonstrating dangerous behavior” and “attempting to steal items” from fair vendors.
“After a short chase, the boy was detained by Cal Expo Police and a small cut was addressed with a Band-Aid,” the statement read, according to FOX 40. “We believe the Cal Expo Police followed all proper policies to quell the situation and keep the minor safe.”
On the other hand, Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter Sacramento says that, regardless of what the child may have done, the officers’ behavior was inexcusable.
“There is nothing that validates grown men doing what they did to him. There’s no reason to tackle a child,” Faison said. “Any level of injury is unacceptable.”
Civil rights attorney Mark Merin also chimed in.
“He’s just a child. They brought him down by choking him. They manhandled him and used force, so immediately there’s false arrest,” he 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.”
Merin went on to add that “this isn’t the first occasion” that he’s had to go up against Cal Expo Police over the department’s alleged misconduct.
All the Officers from the California Exposition and State Fair Police Department and Deputies from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department will miss serving our wonderful state fair visitors this year. #californiastatefair #statefairpolice #sacramentopolice #sacnews @sacbee_news pic.twitter.com/5UGm8LuujR
— California Exposition and State Fair Police (@CalExpoPolice) April 26, 2020
According to Cal Expo’s “Safety & Security” webpage, “Cal Expo is the only fairgrounds in the nation with a full-time, year-round police department. The Cal Expo Police Department acts under the same authority as all other police departments in the State of California and its sworn personnel have statewide peace officer powers.”