The Sacramento County, CA, District Attorney’s Office announces it will no longer review officer-involved shootings—at the same time that the county Sheriff’s Department reduces firearm training. Fourteen officer-involved shootings follow. In the first weeks of 2012 alone, police shootings break records for prior years: six in total; two dead and three injured. The most recent victim, Lamont Harmon, was unarmed, walking to his mother’s house.[1]

In June 2011, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced that budget cuts might force her to give some prosecutors their pink slips. As a cost-cutting measure, the DA explained, she would no longer review officer-involved shootings. Moreover, her office would cease to review any in-custody deaths of suspects, regardless of circumstances.[2]

Just three months later, a settlement with Chevron earned Sacramento County $6.5 million, with $5.1 million going directly to the DA’s office[3]. Scully called the settlement “fortuitous” and was pleased to announce that her office would now avoid layoffs.

When asked, however, Scully made clear that her office, regardless of the $5 million, would not resume investigations into officer-involved shootings or deaths. [4]

FUN FACTS: In fiscal year 2011 in Sacramento County, 34 Public Defenders were laid off, with another 31 layoffs expected for this year–a 50 percent staff reduction [6]

Neighboring San Francisco’s Public Defenders budget, approximately $24 million, is less than half what the SF police and sheriff’s departments spend in overtime alone. [7]

According to the Sacramento Bee, Scully further noted that her office would continue to prosecute “most other crimes” [committed by the public], “even misdemeanors.” [5]

The central problem, however–a district attorney offering immunity to officers who choose simply to execute suspects rather than clog the courts with “due process”–has yet to be addressed by Scully.


While I have given the Sacramento Bee more than a little guff for its handling of the Creative Frontiers School tragedy, I am grateful for their recent editorial on this dire new “situation” in Sacramento County. Grateful, I should imagine, on behalf of everyone (particularly Sac County residents) who find it “alarming” that a district attorney would make it policy to prosecute misdemeanors but not to investigate shootings and deaths.

Says the SacBee:

[A]lready this year, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies have fired at six suspects. That’s more officer-involved shootings for the department than in any recent full year except 2009, when there were seven.

In the first 37 days of the year [2012], sheriff’s deputies have killed two suspects and wounded three others. The latest shooting happened early Monday when a deputy spotted a man near a stolen car….

The suspect refused to stop, police say, and during a struggle with the deputy, he reached into his waistband. The deputy shot him, but no gun was found.

Lamont Harmon, 47, died at the hospital….[8]


On the morning Mr. Harmon was shot, two police officers were looking for a car thief.

Mr. Harmon happened to be walking in the area.

Mr. Harmon was not the car thief.

Mr. Harmon was walking to his mom’s house.

Mr. Harmon had some experience with other police officers. He had done time once, in the past.

The officers who were about to kill Mr. Harmon, however, didn’t know about his past. They didn’t know the first thing about him, in fact, only that he was a black male walking in the area where they were looking for a car thief.

According to the officers, Mr. Harmon did not stop when they told him to stop.

Nor did he stop when they tried and failed to shoot him with a taser.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the legally innocent, unarmed Mr. Harmon continued to attempt to flee his attackers.

In the resultant melee, the officers allege the unarmed Mr. Harmon made a “furtive” move [9]–however out of place the word “furtive” may seem in a scenario which the police have otherwise described as a chaotic brawl.

What is certain is Lamont Harmon was shot multiple times by officers and is now dead.[10]


Absent any oversight now, but from the Office of the Inspector General, the Sheriff’s Department stated it would conduct an “administrative inquiry”into the death of Mr. Harmon [11].

Under DA Jan Scully’s new approach to the law in Sacramento County, the routine formality of an “administrative inquiry”–one last slap of insult on top of already unimaginable injury to the victim’s family–is precisely where the matter of Mr. Harmon’s death will end.

[Update: Lamont Harmon’s family are now spending their own money (see video) to hire an attorney to investigate Lamont’s tragic and needless death.] [See also: Sean Ogle, mentally-ill man with “child’s baseball bat” shot dead by Sacramento police] [June 2012 Update: see Lawsuit alleges Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy unlawfully shot and killed unarmed, mentally-ill 24-year-old Jonathan Rose as his father watched] [June 2012 Update #2: Record deaths may force Sac County DA Jan Scully to resume investigation of officer-involved shootings.]


[1] “Editorial: Are shootings by deputies being fully reviewed?.” Sacramento Bee. Feb. 8, 2012

[2] Andy Furillo. “With budget tight, Sacramento County DA cuts unit monitoring police shootings.” Sacramento Bee. Jul. 21, 2011.

[3] Loretta Kalb. “Sacramento County finds $23 million to cushion its budget.” Sacramento Bee.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kim Minugh. “Chevron legal settlement helps save Sacramento County DA jobs.” Sacramento Bee. Sep. 7, 2011

[6] San Francisco Public Defender Website:

[7] ABA journal Public Defenders Feeling Budget Pinch, 450-Per-Lawyer Caseloads

[8] “Editorial: Are shootings by deputies being fully reviewed?” Sacramento Bee. Feb. 8, 2012

[9] “Editorial: Are shootings by deputies being fully reviewed?” Sacramento Bee. Feb. 8, 2012

[10] Paul Janes, George Warren, and Dave Marquis. “Family questions why deputy fired fatal shots.” News 10. Feb 7, 2012

[11] “Editorial: Are shootings by deputies being fully reviewed?” Sacramento Bee. Feb. 8, 2012