Humboldt Co. Sheriff’s Deputy Confronted by Group of Angry Transients in Garberville, 911 Call Needed to Bring the Officer Assistance

Photo caption: According to a witness, the first to be handcuffed was the man in the white hat. (Image provided by a reader.)

On Tuesday, August 26, a Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy and a large number of transients became embroiled in a loud and hostile altercation that made several citizens fear for the officer’s safety. 911 was called to bring him assistance.

Southern Humboldt is a community increasingly divided about the large population of transients who camp near towns and frequent the streets. Some residents and business owners, citing anti-social behavior on the part of the homeless, have been trying to keep large groups of the homeless from congregating in clumps on the sidewalks and near the shops. According to Lt. Steve Knight of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Ray’s Food Place in Garberville has “an ongoing request to move people who loiter in their lot.”

In the late afternoon on Tuesday, a sheriff’s deputy, seeing a number of men with what he described as large backpacks and a possible open container of alcohol on Ray’s Food Place’s property, requested they move along. According to Knight, some of the men refused.

One, Knight said, “became agitated and did not do what he was told.” According to Knight, the officer detained that man in handcuffs. Then he detained another.

One person who provided the photo (see right) and preferred to be anonymous wrote, “[The] guy in [the] white hat didn’t speak English and got whooped by the cop…, so did another that yelled police brutality.” 

According to Knight, eight to ten other transients “started yelling, became hostile and refused to back up.”

“Passing motorists and pedestrians, several citizens got involved and came to the officer’s aid,” said Knight.

One of those who came to help the officer is Garberville firefighter, Alfred Williams.

Williams described what he saw to the Lost Coast Outpost. “We were just clearing a smoke check at the transient camp on Sprowel Creek Rd.” Williams said he heard “the officer call for back up code 3 … [I] saw him in front of Ray’s with 20+ [transients] yelling, photographing and videoing him.” Williams continued to describe the scene:

When l stopped there were 2 males detained and [the officer] was taking down a male he had directed multiple times to leave. I asked if he needed any assistance and he told me to watch one male who wasn’t detained and to try to keep the public at a safe distance until CHP arrived to assist.

People were yelling that he can’t do that to people and were mad at him taking the guy down but l personally didn’t see the officer do anything wrong or excessive. 

Williams said that he saw three CHP units arrive to assist the beleaguered deputy. Later, he believes, another sheriff’s vehicle arrived.

Sai McCrady, who works nearby, explained that when he arrived around 5:30 p.m. reinforcements for the officer had arrived. He said he saw multiple law enforcement on the scene. According to McCrady, there were many “police vehicles, mostly cruisers with at least one truck.” He described the scene looking like the “OK Corral standoff between a small force of Police and Transients.” 

Then, McCrady said that he also saw “many transients either being questioned or bystanding.” 

According to Williams, the tense standoff calmed down after the officer explained “his actions to some of the people complaining and l think they then understood his actions, or at least saw his point of view.”

Lt. Knight stated, “People were detained, but there were no arrests.”


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