As recently reported in the Sacramento Bee and other local news outlets, the tragic death of Reginald Payne was caused by police and firefighter wrongdoing that resulted in “sudden cardiac arrest while being restrained in prone position,” according to the coroner’s report. Walkup attorneys Joseph Nicholson and Khaldoun Baghdadi filed suit against the City of Sacramento and individual police officers and firefighters after Payne died in custody in 2020. Firefighters who were originally dispatched to Payne’s home to respond to a hypoglycemic event, were unable to provide the necessary medication to Mr. Payne and called for police assistance in restraining to administer aid. Payne had committed no offense and was in a medical emergency. Nonetheless, the responding police officers handcuffed him face down in a figure-four leg lock. Mr. Payne is heard on police body cam video crying for his parents and saying he can’t breathe until he became unresponsive. Post-incident investigation reported by the Bee revealed that firefighters violated City protocols and training when they stood by as the police officers held Mr. Payne face down in a dangerous position.
The City ultimately terminated the fire department captain overseeing the response to the medical call. According to a March 2021 disciplinary letter obtained by the Bee through a California Public Records Act request, the City’s investigation determined that the fire department personnel’s “actions and failure to monitor the medical condition on scene constituted an inexcusable neglect of duty.” The fire captain on the scene was terminated because of the incident, but appealed the disciplinary action and could be reinstated later this year after arbitration of his claim. Discovery conducted by the Walkup team has shown that the involved police officers were never disciplined whatsoever, and the City has consistently declined to provide records to the press pertaining to the officers in response to a Public Records Act request. Three years since Reggie Payne’s death, the family is speaking out to raise awareness of police wrongdoing and institutional racism, making community members aware of the tragedy of Reggie’s passing. According to Reggie’s sister Crystal, he was the first family member to attend college. He attended Grambling University where he pursued his dream of becoming a sports writer. He worked for the student newspaper and obtained an internship at The Tennessean in Nashville. After graduation he was hired by the San Leandro Times covering sports, but following a mental health crisis requiring hospitalization in 1996, he was never the same. His aspiration to be a professional journalist was derailed, and in the words of his sister showed that “you can do everything to be a good citizen and still die because of your color.”
The case filed by Khaldoun and Joe is set for trial in the Eastern District Federal Court in February of 2024.