Northern California police say they were justified in punching and beating a 14-year-old boy because he resisted the cop’s attempts to detain him for illegal substances, specifically a Swisher Sweet cigarillo.
The boy, Elijah Tufono, said the Rancho Cordova police officer confronted him Monday after he had asked a stranger to purchase the tobacco product for him which he was holding in his hand. Tufono told Fox 40 he immediately handed the cigarillo to the officer. He also admitted he had lied to the cop by telling him he was 18 years old, which would have made it legal for him to possess the tobacco product.
But Rancho Cordova police officer Brian Fowell did not believe him and began trying to place handcuffs on him, according to Fox 40.
Tufono said trouble began after he asked a stranger to purchase some tobacco for him and had it in hand.
“And that’s when the cop pulled up. And he asked me what was that in my hand. And I had gave him, as soon as he asked me that, I just gave it to him,” recalled Tufono.
He said the officer became confrontational despite him handing over the tobacco right away. Out of fear, Tufono said he was not truthful with the officer.
“I did lie to him and I didn’t cooperate, and I know that and I made that mistake. But that didn’t give him no right to do what he did,” said Tufono.
Tufono said the officer then tried to put handcuffs on him without telling him why.
“So when he did that, I pulled my right hand back and that’s when he started getting aggressive and trying to fight,” said Tufono.
Rancho Cordova police released a statement saying they were only responding to “complaints from citizens about hand-to-hand sales of alcohol, tobacco and drugs to minors” at an intersection that includes both a Chevron and 7-11, according to Google Maps.
On April 27, 2020, a Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Officer with the Rancho Cordova Police Department was proactively patrolling the area of Mills Station Road and Mather Field Road. The deputy was in the area due to complaints from citizens about hand-to-hand sales of alcohol, tobacco and drugs to minors.
It’s important to put video footage into context, especially in relation to a use of force incident. In this case, the deputy saw what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and juvenile. As the deputy turned around, he lost sight of the adult, who left the area. When the deputy approached the juvenile, the juvenile was uncooperative and refused to give the deputy basic identifying information. He told the deputy he was 18 years old. Having reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, the deputy attempted to detain the juvenile so he could conduct further investigation. The juvenile became physically resistive at that time, causing the deputy to lose control of his handcuffs, which landed several feet away. The deputy attempted to maintain control of the juvenile without his handcuffs and while alone waiting for his partners to arrive and assist him.
Ultimately, the deputy recovered tobacco products from the 14-year-old juvenile, which is presumably the reason for his resistance. The juvenile was cited and released to his guardians.
This type of situation is hard on everyone–the young man, who resisted arrest, and the officer, who would much rather have him cooperate. The community should know our deputies have a heart for the Rancho Cordova community, especially for the youth they serve through the schools, PAL sports, and our new Youth Center.
These are the facts as we know them. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and Rancho Cordova Police Department, however, have proactively started an investigation into the use of force by our deputy in order to gain a complete and thorough understanding of the events that took place during this incident. Maintaining the public trust and remaining transparent are of paramount importance to the Sheriff’s Office and Rancho Cordova Police Department.
It’s important to put police statements into context, especially in incidents where the enforcement of the crime is worse than the actual crime. It’s not much different than how the New York City Police Department tried to justify the murder of Eric Garner because he had been selling untaxed cigarettes.
Also, at a time when science recommends maintaining social distancing to keep from contacting the coronavirus, not only were the cop or the boy not wearing face masks, the cop believed it was more important to get physical with the boy in order to enforce a victimless crime. That is what the department describes as “problem oriented policing,” which according to Wikipedia, “requires police to be proactive in identifying underlying problems which can be targeted to reduce crime and disorder at their roots.”
In other words, it’s a variation of the NYPD’s “broken glass theory,” which led to countless unconstitutional “stop and frisk” incidents in minority neighborhoods. As always, it’s never about safety but about control. Watch the video below.