The vulgar, express textual content messages between a squad on the Eureka Police Division took a violent activate April 20, 2020, after a suspect posted bail and walked out of jail.
The person had been arrested with an arsenal of loaded weapons, a silencer and different gear, together with physique armor that had belonged to the group’s supervisor, Sgt. Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez. The sergeant exploded within the group chat.
“He additionally had considered one of my tac vests that I had loaned to code enforcement!! Face shoot the f—–!!!” the sergeant wrote. “He was considered one of my first arrests!!! Despatched him to jail for a minute!!”
Reyna-Sanchez’s feedback that day have been a part of a sample of violent, sexually express and demeaning messages despatched between officers in Eureka, a coastal city in far Northern California.
The messages inside the group chat embrace obscene feedback about folks experiencing homelessness and psychological sickness, all written solely months after a damning Humboldt County grand jury report that criticized the division’s therapy of the homeless.
Officers overtly advocated for violence and made degrading feedback about ladies’s breasts, ridiculed a feminine colleague, and imagined homeless folks and others in sexual conditions, based on a Sacramento Bee evaluate of the messages.
Reyna-Sanchez stated about his espresso order: “Black and bitter…like my fantasy spouse!!!”
Ten years earlier than texting his squad to “face shoot” a suspect, Reyna-Sanchez himself shot a 25-year-old man in the head. Officers have been battling David Sequoia in a carport, and the person reportedly pointed a gun inside inches of an officer’s face. That officer shot Sequoia within the chest.
Seconds later, Reyna-Sanchez shot the person within the head as a result of, investigators stated, Sequoia was nonetheless pointing the gun at officers. Sequoia died, and the capturing was deemed justified.
A supply who requested to stay nameless offered The Bee with a sequence of images of the group messages despatched among the many squad over cell telephones, providing solely a snapshot of ongoing conversations spanning months. It was unclear if any of them have been utilizing city-owned cell telephones.
Though Eureka, with a inhabitants of 27,000, has about 50 sworn officers, the messages reviewed by The Bee have been confined to 6 officers in a single squad, primarily from Reyna-Sanchez, the chief of the group, and one other officer, Mark Meftah.
In a single alternate early within the pandemic, on April 4, Reyna-Sanchez advised his officers that public well being officers had requested them to test on a resident believed to have contracted COVID-19.
Officer Meftah responded:
“My plan if I needed to go there was to knock as flippantly as humanly attainable on the door, give him an eighth of a second to reply, after which depart.”
Reyna-Sanchez then wrote: “The general public well being dr recommended we go there, knock loud and step again when he got here to the door!!! Good plan bitch!!! I’ll be proper behind u!!!”
Reyna-Sanchez later up to date his group.
“So the outbreak monkey on L st has been contacted by eoc and is code 4… evidently they simply known as him till he answered and so they’re good with that.”
Reyna-Sanchez, who was employed in 1999 and promoted to sergeant in 2007, didn’t reply to telephone messages in search of remark.
He did obtain them, nevertheless. Meftah mistakenly despatched a textual content message supposed for the sergeant to a Sacramento Bee reporter who had contacted him earlier within the day.
“Dude left a voice mail, too,” Meftah wrote. He questioned what somebody was “making an attempt to do (to) us/you???”
“Properly, that’s awkward…” he wrote to The Bee reporter seconds later.
When The Bee described three of the messages to him, Meftah replied: “Ah, nicely, I’ve no touch upon that. None of that sounds acquainted.” He then stated the date of 1 alternate was from greater than a yr in the past.
“I’m going to terminate our dialog as I’m making ready to drive,” he stated. He didn’t reply to extra questions.
Eureka Police Division Chief Steve Watson stated he was unaware of the messages till The Bee requested a remark from him Tuesday. Watson stated he has launched a proper investigation into the texts.
“It does deeply concern me,” he stated in a telephone interview Tuesday night, including that it jeopardized the progress the division has made locally since he took over in 2017. “The general public’s belief is our lifeblood. It’s not one thing, genuinely, that we take flippantly.”
He stated the texts have been “disappointing and discouraging and inappropriate.”
“There’s no excuse if these feedback have been made,” Watson stated. “We have to examine it, look into it and take applicable motion simply to ensure that the values of this division to our neighborhood are projected in all the pieces that we do.”
Consultants and former regulation enforcement officers who reviewed the messages stated their demeaning nature and encouragement of violence are indicators of deeper cultural issues within the small North Coast division — particularly as a result of they’re coming from a supervisor.
“These officers are doing their very own group a terrific disservice,” stated Kevin Robinson, a retired assistant chief from the Phoenix Police Division who teaches felony justice at Arizona State College. He known as the banter “reckless” and a sign of a “pervasive angle.”
“Chalk it off to no matter you wish to chalk it off to,” Robinson stated, “however the backside line is that they’re disrespecting folks that depend upon them, that they’re sworn to guard and to symbolize.”
Merciless feedback about protesters and ladies
The messages reviewed by The Bee embrace a number of obscene references to ladies, together with one officer who wrote to a different, “I’ll discover you a chief hooker as soon as per week.”
When one officer-in-training was added to their squad, Reyna-Sanchez was displeased.
“Appears the powers that be really feel E Watch is simply too inexperienced to appropriate any points that she has, and she or he had numerous points… in order that they’re placing her on days so that every one u veteran officers can unf— her…” Reyna-Sanchez wrote.
He then responded to a different officer’s remark concerning the project: “Clearly they don’t see what I see… bitch be twice as massive as u!!”
The officers additionally confirmed disdain for native protesters. In one of many group chats The Bee reviewed from January 2020, officers mentioned a response to a deliberate demonstration.
“There’s presupposed to be a protest on the courthouse from 1700 to 1900 for the ‘battle in Iran’ … verify u all have ur riot gear?? Fuel masks, helmet, and dude deal with,” Reyna-Sanchez wrote.
“I’ll beat these f—— hippies down,” Officer Meftah wrote to the group.
“Why don’t I’ve a aspect deal with??” Reyna-Sanchez wrote, referring to a police baton.
In one other dialog, they mentioned a lady who was recognized to shoplift and who additionally had a historical past of psychological sickness. She was strolling in a piece of city.
“Get pics of her rack!!” Reyna-Sanchez wrote.
“Saggy ol udders,” Meftah replied.
“Have her stand on her head!!” Reyna-Sanchez stated.
“I’d nonetheless look, clearly,” Meftah replied.
Jokes about folks with psychological sickness
A Humboldt County grand jury issued a damaging report in 2019 that was important of the division’s enforcement in opposition to folks experiencing homelessness, almost half of whom had been homeless for greater than three years and 70% of whom had a historical past of drug or alcohol abuse.
“This doesn’t paint a portrait of a inhabitants that might reply nicely to citations, arrests, and consistently being moved from place to position,” jurors wrote. “From our interviews with the homeless and individuals who work with the homeless, regulation enforcement efforts solely create extra exhaustion, psychological anguish, and the necessity for medication to masks these states.”
The town denied that its officers may do something in another way. Chief Watson stated in an official response to jurors that “collectively we should discover modern and humane approaches resulting in actual, lasting options.”
Six months after that report was printed, his officers continued their sequence of merciless jokes, lots of them involving folks with psychological sickness.
Final spring, Reyna-Sanchez made jokes about homeless folks having intercourse in public areas. “Oh boy!! Trog intercourse!!!”
“Hey intercourse is intercourse, you place that s— on entrance of me ima watch,” Officer Meftah responded. “And that i did, for like 10 minutes…”
On July 4, officers have been dispatched to a name involving a lady. “She sounds sizzling!!! Reyna-Sanchez wrote. “On this chilly chill, I wager she obtained some exhausting nipples!!!”
Meftah recognized the lady, who police knew to have a psychological sickness.
“Identical to Campbell soup… mmmm, mmmm, good!!!” Reyna-Sanchez wrote.
“If she’s going to insist I going topless, she must get her some 44DDs!!! And never the 38 longs she has!!! They appear like beaver tails!!”
Final summer season, on the heels of marches for police reform, Reyna-Sanchez was unsympathetic when officers shot and killed a person in a Eureka yard. Officers and psychological well being specialists had spent greater than three hours trying to negotiate with a suicidal veteran who suffered from PTSD
Negotiations broke down. The person pointed the gun on the police, and 4 officers fired.
Reyna-Sanchez, who was not working on the time of the capturing, despatched a observe to his squad that stated the suspect “is at st joes with a number of further holes in him!!”
Investigators stated the capturing was justified.
Messages hurt good police work, consultants say
The messages have been troubling however not stunning, stated Philip Stinson, a professor at Bowling Inexperienced State College who research police use of power and regulation enforcement tradition.
Banter like that captured within the Eureka textual content messages exhibits the uncommon, unvarnished actuality of how some officers view their work, stated Stinson, who used to work for a police division himself.
“That is the police subculture of that company unmasked,” Stinson stated. “That is the officers of their pure habitat, speaking amongst themselves. It’s an us-versus-them mentality. It’s a sexualized atmosphere the place policing is violent. It’s ugly.”
The messages additionally present an atmosphere resistant to vary within the metropolis, which for years has also struggled with a swell of drug abuse, homelessness and overwhelmed social companies.
One officer within the Eureka texts appeared to ridicule efforts to ban chokeholds and different lethal restraints in opposition to suspects. In a single textual content alternate, an officer shared a YouTube video about “management strategies” being barred in New York Metropolis. “(Gov. Gavin) Newsom is already j—- off with pleasure hoping he can get it right here I’m positive,” one other officer wrote.
“On the finish of the day, whether or not someone was joking or not joking, or supposed to to be offensive or not, we’ve got to be accountable and accountable for our phrases and our actions,” Watson stated. “And we’ve got to watch out that all the pieces that we do on and off responsibility displays in a constructive mild, that reinforces belief with our neighborhood.”
Robinson, the previous chief in Phoenix, stated feedback like these within the textual content messages are detrimental to the nice work the overwhelming majority of regulation enforcement officers try to do — particularly given the latest reckoning dealing with regulation enforcement.
He stated, based mostly on the textual content messages, they want a cultural change.
“It’s not going to cease,” Robinson stated, “till folks understand for positive that they’re going to be disciplined for it, if not lose their jobs.”