Riverside County sheriff’s deputies repeatedly struck and kicked him, killing him

A memorial for Raymond Johnson outside the Moreno Valley Burger King where he struggled with police. Stan Lim/Staff photographer

A memorial for Raymond Johnson outside the Moreno Valley Burger King where he struggled with police. Stan Lim/Staff photographer

I talked extensively today with Woodie Rucker-Hughes, president of the Riverside NAACP, about the death of a Moreno Valley man after a confrontation with Riverside County sheriff’s deputies.

Raymond Johnson, 41, died Friday outside a Moreno Valley Burger King shortly after Riverside County sheriff’s deputies repeatedly struck and kicked him, and after witnesses said Johnson was shaking and flailing about uncontrollably. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined.

The story my colleagues Jeff Horseman, Janet Zimmerman, John Asbury and I wrote today is here.  Here is Monday’s story.

Space constraints meant a lot of my interview with Rucker-Hughes didn’t make it in the story. So I’m including more of it here, along with reactions from Moreno Valley Unified School District board President Cleveland Johnson, school board member Denise Fleming and Moreno Valley activists Librada Murillo and Alicia Espinoza.

My colleagues and I have been trying since Sunday to get a police comment on the incident, but they have said little.

Sgt. Lisa McConnell, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, responded in an email to Asbury that “due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to answer specific questions.”

I called the sheriff’s department to get comments on the allegations below of deputies mistreating other people but did not get a response (in the two cases I mention in which police fatally shot a suspect, the sheriff’s department in the past had declined to comment to colleagues).

Rucker-Hughes said that after she learned of Johnson’s death, she called his widow, Lawanda Johnson, to express her condolences.

“I said we stand with her as she begins to unravel what happened and to the extent that we could help, we would,” Rucker-Hughes told me.

Rucker-Hughes said that, from her viewing of an amateur video of the incident, police appeared to act with “excessive force and unnecessary force.”

“I don’t know all the things that led up to it,” she said. “All I know is what I saw.”

Rucker-Hughes said it was painful to watch the video.

“It hurt,” she said. “It hurt because I don’t believe any human being needs to be treated like that. I’m looking at six police officers and I’m looking at one man, and that man didn’t have a gun….”

“Why? That’s the question I’m asking. Why? What was provoking that? What could cause them to do that that?”

Witnesses said Johnson was acting erratically before police arrived and believed he was in some type of distress, perhaps because of a medical or mental-health condition or a drug-related reaction.

But police are trained to act with restraint in such situations, Rucker-Hughes said.

“I don’t know how you handle it,” she said. “But I do know you don’t kick him and stomp on him.”

Rucker-Hughes said the sheriff’s department should look into whether more training is needed for deputies and if hiring practices and policies should be re-examined.

Since word spread about Johnson’s death, the NAACP has received 20 to 30 phone calls “from people expressing outrage, saying something’s got to be done, that this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened,” Rucker-Hughes said.

Rucker-Hughes said that for years the NAACP has received complaints from African-Americans saying that “you don’t want to get caught in MorenoValley because you’re not going to get a fair shake.”

Young African-American men complain of being stopped, questioned and asked for identification by police only because they’re hanging out together in the Moreno Valley Mall or elsewhere. The men say police treat them disrespectfully and as if they’re suspects, she said.

Rucker-Hughes said she can’t speak for the veracity of the complaints. “I’m just saying what’s perceived,” she said.

But, she said, they remind her of what she heard about the Riverside Police Department before the 1998 killing of Tyisha Miller by Riverside police led to reforms that improved community relations.

“We’re not anti-police,” Rucker-Hughes said. “We want to be as safe as anyone else. But we want the police to respect us.”

I also talked with Moreno Valley Unified School District board President Cleveland Johnson.

Johnson, who is African-American, said he’s not aware of any especially strong tension between the black community and sheriff’s deputies in Moreno Valley.

“I haven’t spoken with many African-Americans who have had a problem with the police,” said Johnson, who is not related to Raymond Johnson.

School board member Denise Fleming, who also is African-American, declined to be interviewed.

In a written statement, she called for “a thorough investigation of this incident.”

“No man, regardless of the color of their skin, should die in the custody of the very organization designed to serve and protect them…,” Fleming wrote. “We realize that this type of incident is not an ongoing practice in our community and if racial profiling exist(s) it will not be tolerated.”

Rucker-Hughes said any investigation must be conducted by officials from outside the sheriff’s department to ensure community trust in the findings. Right now, only the sheriff’s department’s Central Homicide Unit and Moreno Valley police – which contracts with the sheriff’s department for services – are investigating Johnson’s death.

Rucker-Hughes said the California attorney general’s office – and perhaps the U.S. attorney general’s office and the California Highway Patrol –  should investigate the circumstances of Johnson’s death.

Moreno Valley has been majority black and Latino for years. In the 2010 census, the city was about 17 percent black and 54 percent Latino (more recent data is not available because of the federal government shutdown).

Latinos also have complained of police harassment and lack of respect.

Community activist Alicia Espinoza told me police actions on Friday were part of a pattern.

She said she has heard of repeated instances of police harassing and roughing up Latinos and African-Americans.

In the past 15 months, sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a Latino man during an altercation in a park and fatally wounded a handcuffed African-American man.

Police say Jesús Castillo was shot in July 2012 after he tried to take away a deputy’s gun. His family says he was shot in the back while walking away from the deputy.

The sheriff’s department also said the December 2012 shooting of the handcuffed Lamon Khiry Haslip was justified because he had a gun. In March, Haslip’s mother filed suit against the county, alleging that deputies had unjustifiably shot Haslip and that they were negligently trained.

Espinoza said the incidents indicate a need for more extensive police training.

Librada Murillo, an activist in Moreno Valley on education and police issues, recalled how when she was pulled over for speeding about four years ago, she and the sheriff’s deputy weren’t able to communicate because she spoke little English.

“Instead of trying to understand me, he made fun of me,” Murillo said in Spanish, recalling what she said were the facial expressions and mocking tone of voice of the officer.

More officers arrived, but none spoke Spanish, she said. The first officer briefly handcuffed her – Murillo said the cuffs were put on tightly, despite her complaints of pain – when she initially refused to sign an English-language document because she didn’t understand it. Murillo said she eventually signed it so she could leave to pick up a waiting child.

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  1. I’m involved in a domestic issue with a gang that will not back off. You go through this and begin to realize the only way so stop these fxxks is beat the crap out of them or worse. According o the local authority they too have rights. This is what they do to others. They aren’t victims. They are perpetrators, albeit they will posture whipped puppy to avoid being held accountable themselves. I don’t advocate police brutality, but in reality police do hold the line on the street, orchestrated as that may be. FACT> Moreno Valley was at one time falling to thuggery. Criminals will take over ANY community for lack of strong policing. Oscar Grant’s (Oakland) criminal record was suppressed, but he had 12 felony cases pending in criminal court before he was shot at BART. Wife settled for a million and walked away. This is character? People are not conscionable by nature. Their first impulse is feral. FERAL, NOT GOD, and they will take from you whatever they want without powers of restraint if allowed to do so, hence the need for police. Do people have to die in police restraint? Mental health issues aside, STFU. THEN if you catch a feral cop, be sure you recall the chief. They usually go unchecked.

  2. I’m beginning to think that the racism & brutality that was shown against me on February 19,2004 (Martin Luther King Jr.Day) means nothing to anybody. Even though my civil rights were clearly violated. I was kidnapped by them, disappearing for hours,it has been proven that I was never properly arrested. Never mirandized,Chocked out,Going through six assistant D.A’s before going to trial. The first trial ended in a hung jury( 9 to 3) in my favor. The second trial I was acquitted of all the false charges they filed against me. During that trial Tony Hoximier & Don Goodrich perjured themselves, and no criminal charges have ever been filed against them for what they did to me. In fact both officers were promoted to sergeants. In June 2011 in a civil court hearing held in Los Angeles Superior Court I was awarded 326,000 dollars. Which they appealed to the 9th Circuit Of The Supreme Court. In which their claim was denied, in February of this year. And they still refuse to make the payment handed down by the jury & backed up by the Supreme Court. I wrote the president who refused to help me in a letter which he wrote. I suffer from P.T.S.D. from the incident. I had to leave California in fear for my disabled wife,and my own safety. In fear of more retaliation by the Moreno Valley Police Department. And to add even more insult, I’ve reached out to every news organization who will not even give heed to my story. Three juries have found fault with what has happened to me. It’s been eleven years of my life taken from me. I still have scars to this very day. The NAACP wouldn’t help me either. What a joke of an organization, being a black male. The only person who has not only fought for me, but has stood behind me this entire time is my attorney Thomas E. Beck who I owe my life too. I’m saddened by the treatment I’ve had to endure. Maybe if I were killed someone would have reported my story. I wish what has happened to me on no other human being. But if nobody writes about it there’s no way to stop it from happening to anyone else. I’m happy about one thing. Mark Perrin vs. The City Of Riverside is in the law books forever as a victory,and nobody can ever take that away from me. I fear for anyone of color in Moreno Valley those officers are out of control. And there needs to be an investigation into that department. They have been getting away with assaulting & killing the same people who pay there salaries. May G*d help them who reside there. Mark A. Perrin

      1. Thank you for showing interest in this nightmare that occurred to me on Janurary 19,2004 ( Martin Luther King Jr. Day) at the hands of Moreno Valley Police Department. On that day in question, more than eight officers took part in trying to cover up their assault on me. What happened is seeing that none of the other officers would identify themselves, the two officers on record (Tony Hoxmier & Don Goodrich) were the only ones I could single out for the abuse that I received that day. On the day in question I worked for Pepsi Bottling Group as a merchandiser. That particular day I was assigned a new hire to train whose name is Michael Martin. At this time he was only 18 years old, also caucasian. At the time I had no Idea that it was a holiday.We meet at Stater Brothers located on Allessandro Blvd. From there he would ride with me, so I could show him my route seeing that he was going to fill in for me on my days off. When the comment was made in one of my stores that it was a holiday, my feeling was, and is to this day that if everyone can’t celebrate it then I shouldn’t use the excuse of being afro american to get a day off. Upon finishing the required stores that day I was driving Michael back to his vehicle at the Stater Bros. I was proceeding south down Perris Blvd at I noticed a patrol unit parked in a driveway with the front of the car visible to the roadway. So at that time I made the comment to Michael ” I’m going to slow down to make sure that I’m not speeding, letting him know that Moreno Valley is infamous for the writing of speeding tickets. Also my vehicle is a high profile vehicle seeing how it was the first yellow G.M.C. truck of it’s kind in the city at this time. As soon as I passed the police unit he immediately pulled out directly behind me with his overhead lights on. I pulled to the curb, The officer(Don Goodrich) walks up to my window, and I ask “Why am I being pulled over”? And he says “licence, registration, and proof of insurance. And I said again officer ” what am I being pulled over for? Again he says”license, registration,and proof of insurance.At this time I told the officer that I have no problem giving you my documents as long as you tell me why I’m being pulled over. Then he walked back to his patrol vehicle( not knowing that he was calling for backup) I decided at this time to contact my wife on my Nextel radio, because before coming down with the illness that took her vision she had been a volunteer for the Moreno Valley Police Department. So I asked her” I have been pulled over by the police & he refuses to tell me what he’s pulling me over for what is the proper protocol for what I should do’? And she said”ask the officer to call his supervisor out”. So when he returned to my vehicle,with my Nextel in my hand holding the button activating the walkie talkie function I said “can you have your supervisor come out? And he replied “I DON’T HAVE TO” he said. I said to my wife “did you hear that”? She said yes, then she said she would call the police herself. By this time Goodrich’s backup had arrived(officer Tony Hoxmier), he proceeded to walk up to the passenger side of my vehicle speaking directly to Michael asking him”Where taking you out of the vehicle for your own safety”. As soon as he placed Michael in the front seat of his patrol unit, both officers proceeded to walk up to my vehicle from the rear one on the passenger side, the other on the driver side. Both ending up at the driver door(Goodrich) asked me to step out of the vehicle, at which time they(Goodrich & Hoxmier) started screaming “GET DOWN GET DOWN”. As soon as I knelt down Hoxmier jumped on my back applying an illegal carotid choke hold around my neck causing unconsciousness .(In court records Goodrich said he applied the hold, but Michael watching the hole thing said it was Hoxmier. The reason being Hoxmier was a training officer if it were found out that he had applied such choke hold he would have been fired). I awoke to a tall motorcycle officer with a handle bar mustache with his knuckles in my chest screaming to wake up . At that point I noticed I was bleeding in my mouth & my eyes hurt really bad. I asked what I was being arrested for, and nobody would answer me. I refused medical attention at the scene. I was then transported to R.C.R.M.C( Riverside County Regional Medical Center)where you could tell how racist Hoxmier is. He opened my door I asked him for help out of the car, he refused making me fall out of the police car onto my back, then having to roll over onto my knees where I stood up on my own. The doctor said my eyes look real bad, and I refused medical care there too saying” This what they did to me, MY FACE IS MY CASE”. I also asked Hoxmier to loosen my cuffs because they were to tight, to which he said”THERE NOT MADE FOR COMFORT”. Eleven years later I still have the scar on my wrist from the cuffs & blackened eyes due to the choke hold that was applied. The entire time I was wondering what they were going to charge me with. When I was brought back to the Moreno Valley Police Department I was asked by a female officer for my wallet that was still in my back pocket she picked it up with her thumb & her index finger acting like it was it was dirty(as if she was handling a snot rag, or a piece of poop). I also noticed at that time at least 10 to 12 huddling around a computer screen. I knew that they were trying to figure out what they were going to charge me with. I was never told what I was being charged with until I was being booked at The Robert Presley Center. Any and all the information that you may need can be found in the court documents(Perrin v. County Of Riverside, Goodrich, Hoxmier) DOI 1/19/04. EDVC-0800595(SGL)JRCx)( United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit Mark Perrin v. County Of Riverside, and Deputy Don Goodrich,#31781, and Tony Hoxmier,#2510.(No. 12-55651)(D.C. No. 5:08-cv-00595-LLP-SS)Memorandum ( Mark Perrin v. County Of Riverside)(No. 12-55944)(D.C. No. 5:08-cv-00595-LLP-SS) Yours Truly, Mark Perrin

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