Shocking Police Brutality Against Black Teen

Sonia Lewis speaks out at Sacramento’s ‘Protest Caravan.’ Photo/ Courtney Hanson

Published on PTLN 5-10-20

Sacramento: Shocking Police Brutality Against Black Teen

SACRAMENTO, CA — On Monday, April 27, a deputy from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department in city of Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento, California, straddled and held down on the ground 14-year-old Elijah Tufono, repeatedly striking him in the face and chest and pushing his face into the cement and gravel. Sonia Lewis of Sacramento, California, a leader with The Liberation Collective for Black Sacramento (TLC), speaks with Cathleen Williams, a correspondent for the People’s Tribune about TLC’s response to the police brutality in the context of the current crisis.  She says, “The goal of the TLC is to make sure there is equity in the Black community when dealing with systems that institutionally target, oppress, and traumatize the Black community – as they have historically. Law enforcement is one of those agencies and systems and we work really hard to stop these racist practices and policies.” 

Marcus L. Strother, who videotaped the incident, wrote on Instagram, “There is no one reason that validates a full-size armed man to sit on, punch, and try and break the arms of a child. Watching him push his head on the curb by his neck was traumatizing for me. I can’t imagine how that child feels right now.” This video has been viewed more than 7 million times. See video at

Cathleen: What do you see happening in the Covid Crisis?

Sonia: Currently we are all under the stress and strain of Covid-19. What we and other grassroots organizations have recognized is that the Covid crisis has accelerated all the conditions we are facing and accelerated our response as well.  

The community is even more vulnerable now, and we are taking this opportunity to use the leverage created by this crisis to stop the over-criminalizing of certain communities, targeting black, brown, and poor folks, unhoused folks.  For example, people in the community may be unable to follow safety guidelines, may not be wearing a mask in the park, especially when they don’t have a home to go home to. We demand that they not treated as criminals because of this.

 We are making other demands to address the current conditions. For example, we are asking for educational equity, now that the schools have closed, to deal with the Black achievement gap; we are looking for social services to provide mental health that is inclusive and culturally responsive to the Black community. We want to make sure our demands are heard. 

Cathleen: What is your response to the brutality used against the 14-year old boy by the Rancho Cordova police?

Sonia: How and why would an officer with Rancho Cordova Police Department be approaching a young, 14 year-old boy, tackling him to the ground, being so physical with him, ending up punching and pummeling him in his head, face, and chest. Why was that necessary, becomes the question. We are trying to leverage where we are currently so that after the pandemic is over these practices don’t continue and be accepted as the practice or the norm. 

The young boy may have been rude, disrespectful, in the officer’s opinion, according to the young man who video-taped the incident. But sometimes we as adults have to take a step back and say, I have to do this job as a professional. This doesn’t have to be an issue of a power struggle, or an issue of violating the physical rights of any human being just because someone may say something to you that you don’t agree with or that you feel is disrespectful. This is a very subjective concept. Respect should be earned – it’s not enough that someone wears a uniform or walks around carrying a gun. 

This isn’t the first time a young person in Sacramento has been over-criminalized and brutalized. We are fighting these incidents and we are making sure that they are voiced and that the community comes together and says, “No! we are not accepting these behaviors, policies, and practices any longer!”  Is the movement getting stronger? Yes – absolutely! The recognition of such violence is getting stronger. This is the power of the movement.  


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