On April 24, 2018, the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office determined that a Redding police officer was justified when he shot and killed a man in December of 2017. Police-officer involved shootings can dominate the news cycles and can sometimes leave more questions than answers for the general public.
Newly appointed United States Attorney, McGregor Scott, recently hosted a select panel of experts during his latest Hate Crimes Task Force meeting in Sacramento to present specific information related to policies and procedures governing the review and investigation of officer-involved shootings. The Hate Crimes Task Force (where I have served as a north state liaison) was started by Scott during his first term as our U.S. Attorney.
Many Shasta County citizens recall McGregor “Greg” Scott fondly and know he served as the elected District Attorney of Shasta County from 1997 to 2003. After completing his first term as U.S. Attorney, Scott practiced as a partner with the law firm of Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP, in Sacramento, focusing on white collar criminal defense and corporate investigations.
United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. swore Scott in as U.S. Attorney on December 29, 2017, as the new United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California. U.S. Attorney Scott returns to the position he held from 2003 to 2009, when he was appointed United States Attorney by President George W. Bush.
Scott was nominated for the current post by President Donald Trump.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California represents the federal government in virtually all litigation involving the United States in the Eastern District of California. This includes all criminal prosecutions for violations of federal law, civil lawsuits by and against the government, and actions to collect judgments and restitution on behalf of victims and taxpayers.
The Eastern District of California is one of the largest judicial districts in the country, both in terms of population and landmass. It has almost eight million residents and encompasses six large urban areas: Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Vallejo, and Fairfield. It extends more than 87,000 square miles, 45 percent of which is federal land. It includes 34 counties reaching from the Oregon border in the north down to Bakersfield in the south, and from the coastal mountains in the west, to the Nevada border in the east.
The officer-involved shooting panel presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District featured District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert of the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, Captain Kathy Lester of the Sacramento Police Department, Assistant Chief of California Attorney General Becerra’s Division of Law Enforcement, John Marsh and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sean Ragan for a panel presentation on the policies and procedures governing the review and investigation of officer involved shootings.
With top law enforcement professionals clearly motivated in presenting informative policy and procedures related to situations when a law enforcement officer uses deadly force, some members of the Task Force had questions and concerns about when an officer uses deadly force, as well as why officers are only put on paid administrative leave for typically three days, when a case could be under investigation for many months. Police Captain Kathy Lester of the Sacramento Police Department responded that was the current policy, and that they would seriously look at each case on an individual basis to see if any other actions should be considered.
With cities like Sacramento offering “Citizen Academies” where law enforcement personnel educate citizens about many law enforcement procedures, laws and policies, interested Shasta County citizens may benefit from contacting our local law enforcement and District Attorney’s Office for policies and procedures related to our area.
U.S. Attorney Scott on the North State
I asked about what north state citizens, somewhat isolated from the Capital, could expect with “Greg” back at the helm of U.S. Attorney. Here’s his reply:
“I have given very clear direction to the people in my office, the FBI, the DEA, the ATF: We’re going to reclaim the north state as part of the Eastern District of California. Because I think, in all candor, over the last several years the north state has been a complete afterthought in terms of Federal Law Enforcement.”
“I’ve been to Redding multiple times already in my short watch back as U.S. Attorney. I’m meeting with the Sheriff, I’ve met with Stephanie Bridgett in Redding, I’ve met with Gregg Cohen in Red Bluff – in fact, today, I have a team that is in Redding, right now, meeting with the representative from the Siskiyou D.A.’s Office, the Shasta County D.A.’s Office, the Tehama County D.A.’s Office to talk about how we can work together, principally on crimes of violence: guns, bad guys who aren’t supposed to have guns and doing bad things, as well as large-scale narcotics trafficking. So, we are all-in on this; we’re trying to get additional investigative resources in the form of the Federal Law Enforcement agencies up there as well, increased manpower, boots on the ground.”
“Redding will always hold a very near and dear place in my heart for the great time I had there as the D.A. as well as how my family and I were treated by the people there. I am fully committed to reclaiming the north state.”
What About the Homeless Issue?
Scott discussed the north state’s homeless situation:
“It’s an intractable problem. What I have observed personally — read and talked to lots and lots of people around the district — is that the homeless population has dramatically increased over where it was even just a few years ago. And I think in large measure that’s a byproduct of some of the criminal justice reforms that have been made in California, that honestly, a lot of people who would have been sitting in the county jail, are not, and they’re out on the street. There’s a whole new social dynamic I think that is taking place right now, and I don’t have any ready answer for that right now. So we’ve got to take more of a holistic view of this to try and figure out what we’re doing.”
“It’s two different things: You have people who lost a job, the principal breadwinner dies; the economic downturn of the last decade had a lot to do with this. But then the additional thing that’s layered onto that is there are those who are of the criminal element because of the decriminalization of many things in California the last few years; are now out on the streets. So that’s going to exacerbate problems.”
Racism in Politics
When I asked whether so-called dog-whistle racism from the White House was an issue for him, Scott was emphatic:
“I don’t have access to any statistics or anything I can put my hands on directly, but we’re obviously very attuned to these issues. I will tell you, getting back to my Shasta County days, one of the most transformative professional experiences of my life was prosecuting the Williams Brothers. Who people remember as two, white brothers acting in the name of some extreme version of Christianity…”
Some may remember that Palo Cedro brothers Benjamin and James Williams pleaded guilty to torching three Jewish Synagogues and were facing trial for the murders of a beloved Happy Valley gay couple, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, on July 1, 1999. According to investigators, the brothers were involved with the Christian Identity movement whose apocalyptic, white supremacist, anti-Semitic views troubled law enforcement agencies around the nation. Another infamous follower of the same movement was Eric Rudolph, the abortion clinics and Olympic bombing suspect. After his brother’s suicide to avoid the trial, James Williams pleaded guilty to the hate crimes and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.
“Because of that experience, it really changed how I look at the world in many ways, and that’s a long way of saying, I get this. I’ve lived it. So we’re very mindful of these issues.”
The Hate Crimes Task Force of the Eastern District serving under the U.S. Attorney’s Office was born from tragedies like the Madson/Mowder murders and the cross-burning on the lawn of a mixed-race couple in Anderson, as well as the racially motivated bulldozing of a Sikh Gudwara, also in Anderson.
Scott seemed confident and reassuring to the culturally diverse members of the task force, myself included.
For more information on policies, procedures and frequently asked questions related to officer involved shootings please go to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s web page here. Or visit the U.S. Attorney Office website.