No charges expected against deputies in Sage Crawford shooting, authorities say
No criminal charges are expected to be filed against Nevada County sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot Sage Crawford earlier this year, according to a statement by the District Attorney’s Office.
In an email statement, former Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said that the office’s upcoming report on whether the deputies involved in the shooting should face discipline is not yet completed. However, he added that after reviewing police reports of the incident, his office made the determination not to file any charges against the officers.
“…Based on the information currently available, there will be no criminal charges against the involved deputies by this administration,” Newell said.
Jesse Wilson, who was sworn in as the county’s new district attorney on Monday, said that he had seen no evidence in the Crawford case that would lead him to reverse Newell’s decision on the matter.
“I have no reason to believe that there will be any charges against these officers coming out of this report,” he said.
However, Wilson added that his office will only make a final announcement on the case after he has had an opportunity to review the completed report.
“The investigation is not complete, and being new to the position, I am not aware of any facts that would contradict what the former DA stated. However, the final decision will not be announced until the investigation is complete,” Wilson said.
Newell, who retired Sunday, said that this decision was based on his office’s assessment that the deputies made a difficult but reasonable decision to use deadly force, based on the totality of the circumstances they were confronted with.
“They (the deputies) were confronted with a difficult situation that escalated faster than anyone could imagine,” Newell’s said in a statement.
“In the seconds that transpired, the deputies had to make immediate life-and-death decisions based on what they were confronted with, in that moment. No amount of second-guessing or hindsight can change that fateful moment.”
Leia Schenk, a spokesperson for the Crawford family who previously discussed the family’s grief about the situation, said that the family was not surprised by the decision, adding that they were “disappointed” by what Schenk characterized as a missed opportunity to hold the involved deputies accountable for their actions.
“This sends the message that Sage’s life, that all our lives, don’t matter, that we’re all disposable,” Schenk said. “Unfortunately, we’re not surprised, because there was never much regard given for Sage’s life or her children throughout this incident.”
Schenk said the entire sum of events surrounding Crawford’s death represents a larger failure by county law enforcement to handle cases involving those suffering from mental illnesses.
“The blatant disregard for mental health and the safety of children in this county is what concerns me,” she said, adding that mental health professionals, not police, should have responded to the incident involving Crawford.
“(Crawford) needed help — she thought she was protecting her children … the officers should have retreated to their vehicles and called in a mental health crisis team,” Schenk said.
The District Attorney’s Office has previously acknowledged that Crawford appeared to have been suffering from a metal health condition at the time of her death.
Dash cam footage of the incident shows Crawford behaving aggressively toward deputies, yelling and screaming, and eventually charging toward one officer with a knife before being shot.
In his statement Newell said that “Although a horrible and sad outcome, it is fortunate that trained officers were the first to contact (Crawford) and not an unsuspecting civilian.”
In addition to reviewing police reports, Newell said that investigators with the District Attorney’s Office had analyzed toxicology reports, firearms involved in the shooting, and ballistic testing from the scene in putting together their final report on the incident.
The former district attorney declined to say when the full report itself will be released. While not a criminal matter for his office to pursue, Newell emphasized that Crawford’s death was nonetheless an extreme tragedy for the community and should be treated as such.
“Our sincere condolences go out to the family of the deceased,” he said.
The two deputies mainly involved in the incident and who can be seen in the dash cam video of Crawford’s death — Caleb Toderean and Matthew Harrison — were both placed on administrative leave in February, but had returned to active duty by May, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Crawford was shot on Feb. 4 during a confrontation with Toderean and Harrison on Names Drive in Alta Sierra.
The dash cam video shows the two deputies, who originally responded to a call for service in the area, approaching Crawford as she is walking with her two children in the middle of the street. Crawford can be seen brandishing a knife in the video, and is yelling and screaming at both officers.
At one point, Crawford runs toward one of the officers while brandishing the knife. One deputy unsuccessfully attempts to taser her, before a second officer fires five shots at her with his handgun.
Crawford was transported to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.
Schenk questioned why one of the Sheriff’s Office’s mobile crisis units, often used to deescalate confrontations involving individuals with mental illness, was not called to address the situation.
“I believe this could have gone a totally different way,” Schenk said of the absence of a mobile crisis team at the scene of the shooting. “They failed Sage. She needed help they didn’t provide, and it cost her her life.”
The Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on the situation, except to state that it is conducting an internal review of the incident to determine if any discipline is warranted for the deputies involved, per a statement from Andrew Trygg, the sheriff’s public information officer.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was updated July 15, 2021, to clarify Jesse Wilson’s statements
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