In defense of the defense: ‘Picnic Day 5’ told detectives they didn’t know they were fighting cops

Testimony doesn’t advance Police Department’s version of UC Davis Picnic Day brawl

Protesters gather outside the Yolo Superior Court in Woodland to voice their support for the “Picnic Day 5” defendants inside.

Protesters gather outside the Yolo Superior Court in Woodland to voice their support for the “Picnic Day 5” defendants inside.

Photo by Luis Gael Jimenez

This is an extended version of a story that appeared in the August 17, 2017, issue.

Immediately following the April 22 melee in which three police officers were injured, a member of the so-called “Picnic Day 5” told Davis police Detective Kimberly Walker that he unknowingly swung at a plainclothes officer after seeing him strike a black man.

Walker recalled her interview with defendant Elijah James Williams while testifying during a preliminary hearing on Thursday, August 10.

Williams, Antwoine Rashadek Perry, Alexander Reide Craver, Iszir Daquan Price and Angelica Monique Reyes face multiple felony counts of assaulting a peace officer and resisting arrest in what the Police Department initially characterized as an ambush on the officers—the department rescinded that account after an eyewitness video appeared to contradict it.

Attorneys for the five defendants say their clients had no idea they were fighting undercover officers and only answered force with force. Over two days of testimony last week, police officials called to the stand say the defendants largely told them the same thing.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Davis PD maintain that the defendants knew or should have known they were dealing with officers.

According to testimony and eyewitness video presented in court, Officers Ryan Bellamy and Steve Ramos were both dressed in T-shirts and shorts. Officer Sean Bellamy (Ryan’s brother), who was the last to engage with the rowdy crowd, wore a tactical vest with “POLICE” inscribed on the back, but was otherwise not in uniform. All three officers wore their badges on necklaces that defendants claim they didn’t see until it was too late.

A chaotic sequence of events toppled like dominoes from the moment the officers responded to a call regarding a crowd blocking traffic. In the video, the unmarked police van can be seen rolling up on a throbbing crowd, which was gathered across from the university’s campus. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, a man exits the passenger side and appears to shove a man in an orange T-shirt. The man runs and violence erupts.

The man dressed in the orange sports jersey was Perry, who had approached the passenger side of the van where Officer Ryan Bellamy sat. According to Detective Walker, Bellamy told her Perry made “a startling movement” to his pants pocket and that’s why he opened his car door and grabbed for Perry.

That was portrayed as an inciting incident for the violence that ensued.

In her August 10 testimony, Walker said Williams told her he entered the rumble after seeing a man attack an African-American member of the crowd. Walker testified that Williams said he immediately stopped fighting and ran once that man identified himself as an officer. Asking Williams why he ran, the detective testified that Williams told her, “’I didn’t want to get shot or something.’”

Similarly, Walker testified that Craver said he only intervened after watching a man punch Reyes and place her in a headlock. Craver told Walker that seeing a man striking a woman triggered traumatic childhood memories and forced him into action, Walker testified.

Craver then told her he knocked the man to the ground and tried to put him in a chokehold, but was unable to, Walker said. As soon as Ramos announced he was an officer, Craver said he let him go and surrendered, Walker testified.

The detective’s testimony lasted more than four hours, drawing vigorous cross examination and repeated objections from opposing counsels. Outside the courtroom, Williams’ defense attorney, Mark Reichel, said Detective Walker was wrong about why his client entered the fray. Like Craver, Reichel said, Williams intervened after seeing Reyes get struck by a man.

The next day, police Detective Joshua Helton testified that Reyes told him she blacked out after being punched in the head and only learned she had been in a street fight after friends informed her.

Showing a previously unreleased eyewitness video in court, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens asked Helton to describe what it showed. The detective said the clip appeared to show Reyes kicking Officer Ramos in the head as Craver locked him in a chokehold.

Helton testified that when he asked Reyes if she had kicked the officer, she responded, “’I never touched anyone.’”

Reyes also denied knowing Craver before the fight, Helton testified, but police found photos of the two of them in a vehicle with Perry and Price. Williams didn’t know the four defendants before the fight began.

The Bellamy brothers weren’t the only siblings in the mix that day. Price, who is Perry’s brother, said he ran to the scene from a fraternity party around the corner after receiving a phone call that Perry had been jumped, Officer Nicholas Peel testified on August 11.

Peel testified that he arrested Price a block and a half away, wearing only one shoe. Asked why he ran, Price told the officer, “’I’m not trying to fight a police officer,’” Peel testified.

Davis police Officer Alan Hatfield testified that he arrested Perry a half-block from the fight, wearing a different shirt. Hatfield said the defendant complied with all of his requests, and admitted he had “traded with a friend” the orange jersey he was wearing during the fight.

A backpack alleged to belong to Perry was later found containing marijuana and a dozen bullets for a 9-millimeter handgun. Defense attorney Jeff Raven objected to a photo of the backpack being entered into evidence.

“This just shows how weak the people’s case is that they are using marijuana found after the fact to prove their case,” Raven told the court. Judge David Rosenberg responded that the backpack may prove relevant later on, but allowed defense counsel to level an objection in the future.

The preliminary hearing stretched over two days and will continue for three more at the end of this month in Yolo Superior Court, an unusually long stretch for a criminal proceeding that just needs to show enough evidence to justify a jury trial.

As the proceedings unfolded, a small crowd gathered outside the Woodland courtroom to protest the charges against the five defendants, all of whom are people of color.

“I’ve lived in this community for over 30 years,” said Carole Standing Elk, one of the protesters. “I know what the Police Department is capable of and I want to see justice brought to them for assaulting these people.”

The city has appointed an independent investigator to review the Police Department’s handling of the case.