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Searching for answers: Group wants accountability, review of officer certifications

By Rebecca O'Neil | Staff Writer
Justice for Sage Crawford organizers gathered Friday at the corner of Commercial and Coyote streets in Nevada City to listen to speakers, which included local advocate for the homeless Pauli Halstead and Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh.
Photo: Elias Funez

A group of 25 people gathered Friday outside the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office to protest the fatal shooting of Ariella “Sage” Crawford by a sheriff’s deputy in front of her two children on Feb. 4 in Alta Sierra.

Libby Woods, an educator in Nevada City, helped organize the event and specified the impetus behind the demonstration. Woods said she and other members of the community are concerned by possible inconsistencies in police training across western Nevada County’s three law enforcement entities — the Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Nevada City and Grass Valley police departments.

Woods said she and others have questioned whether local officers received any de-escalation training after watching events escalate on the involved officers’ dash-cam.

Woods said a public records request has been made to review officer certifications.

According to Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, the Sheriff’s Office and Grass Valley police regularly receive that training.

Pauli Halstead, who ran the Streicher House Homeless Day Center in Nevada City, demands accountability of local law enforcement officers from Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh during Friday’s Justice for Sage Crawford rally outside of the District Attorney’s Office in Nevada City.
Photo: Elias Funez

Woods also said the District Attorney’s Office indicated it would release full reports on both the Gabriel Strickland and Sage Crawford cases.

The District Attorney’s Office released a report on Strickland, shot by law enforcement in January 2020, late last year. Walsh said a report on Crawford’s shooting would be released, though no date is set for that release.

Woods said the role mental health played in both of the cases is an invitation to community leaders to consider how to address the region’s growing affordable housing crises as well as improve and increase access points to social services.

Signs lay against the walls of the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office.
Photo: Elias Funez

After listening to Woods, attorney Lorraine Reich, as well as community organizer Pauli Halstead and Walsh spoke to the gathered crowd.

Walsh said Crawford’s death was tragic, adding that it’s unclear whether her shooting was illegal.

Walsh said cases involving weapons — Crawford was wielding a knife at the time of her death — and mental health issues may require an administrative review.

Walsh also said Crawford’s case may be taken on by California’s new Attorney General Rob Bonta under legislation introduced in January of this year.

“We are not going to equally throw police officers under the bus just because it’s politically expedient,” Walsh said. “I know there’s a lot of historic distrust between law enforcement and homeless folks, people with mental health issues.“

Handwritten signs are placed against the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office in Nevada City during Friday’s protest.
Photo: Elias Funez

Walsh said the District Attorney’s Office welcomes transparency.

Friday’s event was organized in large part by the Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County, a group that provides resources and connections to community organizers in the area.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.


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