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Regional Interests

‘A Horror Story’: Woman Knocked Out by Solano County Sheriff’s Deputies Asks California Attorn

Supporters of a Black woman who was beaten by white Solano County Sheriff’s deputies a year ago are now calling on California’s attorney general to investigate the incident and remove Sheriff Thomas Ferrara from office.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Nakia Porter repeatedly broke down in tears as she described what happened to her on Aug. 6, 2020. She had pulled off the I-80 onto a small side road near the town of Dixon so her father could take over driving during their trip home from Oakland to Orangevale. Porter’s 3- and 4-year-old daughters, and her 6-year-old niece, were in the back seat.

“We were trying to switch seats [when] a normal trip to have a good time turns into a horror story,” the 34-year-old software engineer said.

Sheriff’s Deputies Dalton McCampbell and Lisa McDowell were stopped on the side of the road on an unrelated call and approached Porter’s car after noticing a front license plate from Maryland and a rear one from California, police reports show.

Footage of the incident captured on officer body camera and dashcam shows the deputies pulling up behind Porter’s car and flashing their lights.

Porter gets out of the car and walks around toward the passenger side, at which point McDowell asks her to get back inside. She says she’s letting someone else drive, and waves toward the officers.

“Okay, but get back in the car,” McDowell says.

Porter continues heading toward the passenger seat.

“Get back in the car now,” McCampbell shouts.

In the footage, Porter hesitates and then turns to walk back to the driver’s side of her vehicle. At the press conference Porter described being “utterly confused” at that moment.

The two deputies then move in and detain her. The video captures footage of them trying to twist her arms behind her back and then push her up against the car.

As the deputies drag her back toward their vehicle, Porter pulls away and cries out. The footage is shaky and unclear, but at some point during the struggle, Porter is knocked unconscious.

“I’m complying to get back in the car, and I do not make it,” Porter said at Wednesday’s press conference, recalling the incident. “How terrifying is that?”

After losing consciousness, Porter was taken to a nearby hospital before being booked into jail for felony resisting arrest, police reports show. The district attorney never filed those charges against her.

The Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that Porter refused to get back in the car and that she hit the deputies when they tried to detain her. That statement also suggested that an edited-down 10-minute video of the incident released by Porter’s legal team did not tell the full story. A spokesperson for the department said he could not further clarify what was inaccurate in the edited video. The department declined to comment further on the case, citing pending litigation.

Porter’s lawsuit, filed last month, alleges deputies unlawfully detained her, used excessive force, and lied on police reports. It also accuses the department of hiding key evidence about the incident because it still has not released footage from the body camera of arresting officer McDowell.

The incident report, which KQED obtained through a public records request, says McDowell activated her camera three times that night, generating three different video files that were booked into evidence. KQED obtained one of these files of previously unreleased footage from McDowell’s camera. Although it does not capture the incident with Porter, it does show the deputy talking to Porter’s father, Joseph Powell, who also was detained and handcuffed while deputies searched the family’s car and ran the license plates.

That footage shows Powell, 61, handcuffed in the back of a police car.

“Man, y’all jumped her, why?” he asks the deputies.

McDowell tells him she didn’t know what Porter, his daughter, was doing. Finally, they remove Powell’s handcuffs and let him return to the car to look after the three little girls that have been left alone in the back seat.

The lawsuit states the deputies did not find any evidence of criminal activity in the car. Porter had moved from Maryland and forgotten to change the front plate, according to the suit. The police reports do not mention these details. The lawsuit also alleges that the reports stating that Porter “briefly lost consciousness” contradict videos that show her unconscious for five minutes.

“We did nothing wrong,” Powell said at Wednesday’s press conference. “My grandchildren should not have witnessed what happened to their mother.”

The family, at Wednesday’s event, was joined by members of the NAACP and local faith groups in calling for the state attorney general to investigate the incident. Betty Williams of the NAACP in Sacramento said her office has received multiple complaints from people who say they were harassed by law enforcement officers while driving through Solano County.

“If you’re going through Solano county, Black people be aware,” she said.

Williams also noted connections that some Solano County deputies have to the extremist, far-right group the Three Percenters, as was revealed in an Open Vallejo investigation earlier this year. Porter’s suit claims that McCampbell is also a part of that group. Ferrara, the sheriff, has denied his deputies are part of any extremist groups.

Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office said it is reviewing Porter’s request to investigate the case.

The Solano County DA’s office said in emails that the lawsuit was the first they had heard of any allegation of misconduct by the deputies and that the case is under review.

“Why did this happen?” Porter asked on Wednesday. “You know what? I don’t have all of the answers because there’s people in different positions that could do something about it, but they’re not. That’s why y’all are here. That’s why we’re all here. To put the pressure on those that have the positions to make the changes.”

Copyright 2021 KQED