Ticket to a fight: Video depicts violent confrontation between Sacramento light-rail security, customers

Couple who had purchased tickets were detained for ‘delaying officers’

This is an extended version of a story that appeared in the November 3, 2016, issue.

A violent confrontation, recorded on video, between law enforcement and two regional transit riders caught fire on social media last week.

The October 26 video shows Golden Smith, 34, and Stacey Bledsoe, 48, in an expletive-filled struggle that ended with Smith tasered, Bledsoe restrained by the hair and both in jail.

According to Capt. Norm Leong of the Sacramento Police Department, the two ignored repeated calls by officers to stop for a fare check after stepping off the train at the 13th Street light-rail station. After a police officer and a transit agent caught up with them, it was concluded that they had paid their fares.

But the interaction didn’t end there. After finding outstanding warrants for both, officers decided to cite them for “delaying officers from their duties.”

According to Leong, Smith refused to sign the citation, then struck the officer who attempted to detain him in the face before being subdued.

Leong said the officer sought medical treatment for injuries to his face and was temporarily placed off duty at the suggestion of a doctor.

The video, which had more than 42,000 views and nearly 1,200 shares on Tuesday, starts with matters already escalating to mutual combat. Smith can be heard saying, “You’re gonna break my fucking arm, man,” before it appears that he throws a punch and the two police officers begin grappling with him. He is wrestled to the ground as Bledsoe shouts “wait” and tries to break up the scrum.

As Smith is tasered, an officer can be heard shouting, “Get on your belly right now, motherfucker.” And after Smith appears to surrender, he can be heard imploring for help and alleging “police harassment.”

However events managed to escalate, the fact that Smith and Bledsoe, both black, were accosted by four white officers is something social media commentators, and the video’s uploader, Michael Aran, definitely noted.

Aran, who says “black lives matter” near the end of the video clip, was unable to be reached for comment. Comments posted under the video by Facebook users—such as Markus Robert Smith’s “White cops picking on a black man” and Jordan Allen’s “The police out here are ruthless”—indicate the frustration felt by many in the wake of heightened racial tensions in the United States, and Sacramento in particular.

“The officers initiated the delay in the first place,” said attorney Mark T. Harris, a member of the new Law Enforcement Accountability Directive group, or LEAD. “They created the problem. This is just absolutely unconscionable.”

The light rail incident comes a little more than three months after the police killing of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill black man whose death has prompted calls for police reform after released footage showed officers attempting to run Mann over before shooting him 14 times.

In Smith’s case, Leong said officers acted properly and have not been placed on leave; but in keeping with policy, Regional Transit is conducting an internal review.

Harris says that isn’t enough. He compared the singling out of two African Americans for a fare check to apartheid, and says it’s something that happens often in Sacramento—sometimes with irreversible consequences.

“Sadly, sometimes this simple sort of encounter can escalate into a death when it comes to African-Americans who are on the receiving end,” Harris said. “We want to insist upon a fair meting out of police procedures and practices no matter what the ethnicity of the citizen is. … That’s not something we’re asking for, that’s something we’re demanding.”

Smith was still being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail without bail on Tuesday. He is charged with violation of parole, battery on a peace officer, and resisting executive officers. He was expected to appear for a November 3 settlement conference at Sacramento Superior Court.

Bledsoe was arrested and released, with a court date set for January.