Summary: Police brutality against Black woman in Lancaster, California spurs wave of media coverage and local protests — Editors
On June 24th, a woman was slammed to the ground by a sheriff’s deputy outside a WinCo Foods grocery store in Lancaster, California.
The sheriff’s department received a call from an employee about an “in-progress robbery”. According to the employee, two customers, a Black man and a woman, were allegedly stealing from the store and assaulted loss prevention employees who tried to stop them.
As deputies confronted the two, the woman immediately began recording as the deputies began patting down and handcuffing the man who is seen carrying a cake in the video. Another deputy then begins walking towards the woman who told the deputy “You can’t touch me”.
A different video recorded by a bystander shows the deputy pushing the woman to the ground and then pepper spraying her before handcuffing her while she was still on the ground. While the woman is seen struggling on the ground, the deputy can be heard saying, “Stop, or you’re going to get punched in the face.”
The man can then be heard telling the deputies to stop and that the woman has cancer. After being arrested, the woman had to be treated at the local hospital for burns caused by the paper spray and abrasions by being slammed violently to the pavement.
The man was cited for petty theft and resisting an officer while the woman was cited for assaulting an officer and loss prevention personnel.
The LA County Sheriff’s Department responded to calls for transparency by releasing body camera footage on July 3rd showing the situation from the perspective of the deputies. However, the identities of both the victims and the sheriff deputies involved have not been publicly released despite attempts by several agencies to verify their identities.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna has released several statements saying that an internal affairs investigation is ongoing to determine if there was a misuse of force and that the department takes “any use of force that occurs within our agency, very seriously”. As of writing this both deputies are still under administrative review and could face dismissal once the facts are reviewed, according to Luna. WinCo Foods has not responded to the incident or made any kind of statement.
Following the incident, the video has been spread around social media and was covered by major news outlets. Several protests have also taken place outside WinCo Foods where the incident occurred. The largest protest was organized on July 5th by Cancel the Contract Antelope Valley – a community-led campaign affiliated with Reform LA Jails which advocates for the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale to cancel their contract with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Cancel the Contract has been known for its previous work in addressing over-policing in Antelope Valley schools and repairs for public housing projects.
Incidents like this one are not unfamiliar to Black residents of the Antelope Valley, but this just happened to be one of the interactions that were recorded and spread quickly around social media. The brutality of the incident was especially shocking to many, as the helpless woman is seen screaming on the ground as the deputy pepper sprays her for “resisting”. The incident has prompted other Black residents to voice their growing concerns with law enforcement as the sheriff’s department continues to harass and murder Black people in the Antelope Valley. Local organizations like Cancel the Contract are helping advance the cause against the LA County Sheriff’s Department in favor of community-based alternatives for public safety. Although the victims in this situation may go unidentified, their situation is one that many minorities can relate to across the country.