The “Jaywalker” Brutalized By Sacramento Police Was Stopped for No Reason at All

A Sacramento police officer used the city's jaywalking statute as a pretext to initiate this violent confrontation with Nandi Cain, Jr. in April.
A Sacramento police officer used the city's jaywalking statute as a pretext to initiate this violent confrontation with Nandi Cain, Jr. in April.

If your goal is to make people safer, police stops for jaywalking are not the way to go. These stops can escalate and cause physical harm while preventing none, like when police bloodied an elderly man in New York City, or tackled a young woman to the ground in Austin.

When the line between a legally justifiable stop and outright harassment is so thin, it can easily become a pretext for racial profiling. That’s what happened to Nandi Cain, Jr., who was beaten by Sacramento police during what officials called a jaywalking stop. The incident was taped by a passing motorist and resulted in a half-hearted apology from the police department, which said the video was “disturbing” and that the officer’s actions “do not appear to be reasonable.”

Sacramento PD’s statement maintained that Cain was jaywalking, but it turns out that his only offense was walking while black. Systemic Failure breaks down the dashcam footage that preceded the stop:

Sacramento pedestrian

This statement shows the Sacramento PD is utterly confused about jaywalking laws. Crossing the intersection at Cypress and Grand is completely legal under CVC. Dash-cam footage confirms that the pedestrian, Nandi Cain Jr, crossed corner to corner. And no, he was not crossing against a light or anything like that: there are no traffic signals at the intersection.

Even worse, the dash-cam footage shows a driver blasting through the intersection right in front of Cain as he is trying to cross. Pedestrians crossing unsignalized intersection have the right-of-way, and cars are required to yield. If the officer was going to go after anyone, it should have been the driver and not the pedestrian.

So this incident is disturbing on multiple levels. The police did not protect a vulnerable road user from a dangerous driver. Instead, an officer goes after an innocent pedestrian who is rightly annoyed at getting stopped — and gets assaulted as a result. Then the police dept. puts out a ridiculous press release calling Cain a lawbreaker.

The L.A. Times reports there will be a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions and that Cain will not be charged. But what happened to Cain is all too common — how many incidents like this don’t get caught on tape for the world to see?

More recommended reading today: The Transportist shares a new study analyzing transportation opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The Urban Edge reports that librarians, researchers, and advocates are raising red flags about Republican attacks on government data collection. And The Urbanist rallies readers against a bill backed by Washington state Democrats that would slash support for Seattle’s Sound Transit after voters approved a big transit funding package.

  • Vooch

    The real tragedy is the Police Leadership who train their ‘peace’ officers to routinely comnit such atrocities and then wonder why most Americans despise them.

  • saimin

    When police patrol the streets in cars instead of on foot or on bicycle, they look at pedestrians and bicyclists as the enemy.

  • gneiss

    The police department statement doesn’t acknowledge that it was wrong for this police officer to initiate the stop which lead to this violence. In fact, they seem to believe that jaywalking was observed here, which is patently false.

    In some ways, that is the most disturbing element of this episode, as it means they collectively don’t understand the law, which suggest that further harassment is likely, even if violence does not result.

  • Jason

    What incentive do the cops have to learn the law given the SCOTUS ruling that it’s a defense for government officials to violate the law if it was “a good faith misunderstanding” of the law? Note that of course for you and I, ignorance of the law is still no excuse.

    Cops routinely enforce what they believe or desire the law to be. In NYC, because of a court ruling, it became legal for women to be topless anywhere men could legally be topless. So of course NYPD kept arresting and ticketing people for it. Then an departmentwide memo got sent around to the effect of, “THIS IS LEGAL, STOP ARRESTING WOMEN FOR IT.” Did that stop NYPD from continuing to enforce what they believed/desired the law to be? Of course not. Were there penalties for these cops? Of course not.

  • bobfuss

    One problem is that there is not always signage to show that it is legal to cross at any given intersection. If even the police don’t know which is which, then how can anyone else.

    In this case, I doubt that the pedestrian reflected upon whether it was legal to cross there or not. I know that I don’t. If I want to cross and it’s safe to, I just cross. Must have done it thousands of times in SF and once I got a warning, that’s it.

    Berkeley, on the other hand, has regular stings for jaywalking. But as always with Berkeley, it’s about the revenues from the fines, and they sting cyclists and drivers as well, of course.

    Not sure race has anything to do with this case, so am not clear why that card is being player here.

  • saimin

    You have that backwards. Intersections are always legal pedestrian crosswalks unless signs specifically say otherwise. The police should know this.

  • bobfuss

    I imagine that “rule” varies by State but, in any event, not many people know that to be the case and it would be reckless in the extreme to step out into traffic based upon that assumption. Regardless of right of way you have a responsibility to avoid hazards and risk.

  • Jonathan Krall

    This is why police departments should be required to collect and share demographic data on stops and arrests. We (citizen advocacy groups) are working on such an ordinance in Alexandria, VA, where I live. Not surprisingly, we are getting pushback form the police.

  • SF Guest

    Unless Sacramento has a City Code such as Title 10 Vehicles and Traffic, Chapter 10.20.020 “Pedestrians must use crosswalks: No pedestrian shall cross a through street within three hundred (300) feet of a crosswalk other than within such crosswalk, except at a location where a school bus is stopped and is displaying flashing red lights.”

    The most disturbing element here is whether Nandi Cain removed his jacket with the intent to fight the officer or to show whether he was unarmed.

  • SF Guest

    Your statement that pedestrians may legally cross at unmarked crosswalks is generally true except Sacramento has a City Code Title 10 Vehicles and Traffic, Chapter 10.20.020 [see below] which requires using marked crosswalks.

  • Stuart

    Your quote doesn’t say “marked crosswalk” anywhere, just “crosswalk”. The pedestrian is clearly in a crosswalk as define by CVC 275:
    —–
    “Crosswalk” is either:
    (a)?That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.
    (b)?Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.”
    —–

    So the code you mentioned wouldn’t be relevant here. It sounds like it’s to make some mid-block crossing illegal that wouldn’t be prohibited by the CVC.

  • Stuart

    Nope. The work “marked” doesn’t appear anywhere in that code.

  • SF Guest

    After reading 10.20.020 again I agree with your assessment since as you stated doesn’t say “marked crosswalk.” SPD also cited CVC Sections 21954 and 21956 which I don’t think are applicable as well.

    http://www.abc10.com/news/local/sacramento/how-does-california-define-jaywalking/430480241

  • SF Guest

    Agreed.

  • Andrew

    One problem is that there is not always signage to show that it is legal to cross at any given intersection. If even the police don’t know which is which, then how can anyone else.

    Do you seriously believe yourself here, that there is no way for anybody to tell whether it’s legal or illegal to cross at an intersection? Anybody familiar with the basic law here knows full well that it is unambiguously legal to cross the street here, and anybody unfamiliar with the basic law have no business declaring that Cain crossed the street illegally.

    And if the police somehow don’t know whether or not it’s legal to cross, then on what basis are they issuing jaywalking citations (or assaulting jaywalking suspects)?

    In this case, I doubt that the pedestrian reflected upon whether it was legal to cross there or not.

    Did the driver “reflect” on whether it was legal for him to proceed across the intersection without watching for and yielding to pedestrians?

  • Andrew

    I imagine that “rule” varies by State

    Perhaps it does, but seeing as this incident occurred in a specific state, one could, if one were interested, look up the law in that specific state.

    but, in any event, not many people know that to be the case

    Then perhaps they should be educated.

    and it would be reckless in the extreme to step out into traffic based upon that assumption.

    Watch the video. Where do you see somebody stepping out into traffic? Cain clearly waited for cross traffic to clear before proceeding across the street, even though he had legal priority over that cross traffic. He didn’t do anything that could remotely be considered reckless.

    You know what is reckless to the extreme? To drive a motor vehicle across an intersection where one is legally required to yield to pedestrians without first making absolutely sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no pedestrian is approaching.

    Regardless of right of way you have a responsibility to avoid hazards and risk.

    And, in fact, Cain explicitly gave up his legal right-of-way in order to avoid being killed by an irresponsible driver who had no intention of yielding. He did nothing wrong by any stretch of the imagination. The driver, on the other hand, failed to comply with a fundamental law of driving, threatening a pedestrian’s life in the process.

  • bobfuss

    I suspect that drivers will start yielding at every location where they are technically supposed to stop at about the same time as cyclists so and pedestrians stop jaywalking.

    We all to some extent choose which laws to obey.

  • bobfuss

    What the theory is is one thing but as a practical matter it is judicious to not assert every right you have when it is more civil and respectful to defer to traffic where that makes sense. All I can tell you is that if I had been that pedestrian I would not ended up getting smacked.

  • bobfuss

    What would be the significance? If 10% of the arrests are of race X, then isn’t it at least possible that 10% of the people who commit that infraction are of race X?

  • bobfuss

    Either way it surely makes sense to be more confident about crossing where a crosswalk is clearly indicated, and more circumspect when it is not.

  • Stuart

    > Do you seriously believe yourself here

    Of course he doesn’t. It’s just that bobfuss is so dedicated to victim blaming that it’s impossible for him to read an article here about something happening to a pedestrian without blaming that pedestrian for not yielding their right of way even when they do, and even when that’s not relevant to the incident.

    You’ll notice that carefully avoids any acknowledgement of the fact that he’s completely off-topic, and keeps trying to steer it back to an imaginary incident that didn’t happen where he can blame the victim. No matter what you say, he’s just going to keep to his standard talking points.

  • Jonathan Krall

    In The New Jim Crow, author Michelle Alexander clearly documents the fact that police and prosecutor discretion has turned a population that uses illegal drugs uniformly across race and class lines into a prison population that is overwhelmingly black, brown, and poor. We need results-oriented, data-driven policies. Instead we get nasty situations like the one described here.

  • bobfuss

    I’ve heard the theories that all races commit crimes at the same rate but that doesn’t explain why the US cities with the highest crime rates are all cities with large black populations like Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, Baltimore etc.

    Addressing the problem has to involve a level of acceptance that some demographics commit far more crime than others. Denial, evasion and attempts at rationalization won’t help.

  • Vooch

    streets are for people

    not hulking death machines

  • bobfuss

    With probably 90% of US households owning and driving a private vehicle, I think you are going to have to accept some limits on your grand dream to ban cars.

    Are roads for people? Highways? Freeways?

  • Vooch

    streets for people

    freeways for cars

    simple

  • bobfuss

    Are you OK with the voters deciding about that? Or can they not be trusted?

  • Vooch

    you okay with the president’s plan to privatize most interstates !

    BWAH !!!!!

  • Vooch

    don’t want to eliminate private driving – just stop the carnage

  • Jonathan Krall

    “US cities with the highest crime rates are all cities with large black populations”
    Source for this claim? I provided a source for my statements.

  • bobfuss

    I can’t believe that you would seriously doubt that places like Detroit have a crime problem. But here you go:

    http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-united-states.html

  • neroden

    Lead exposure correlates WAY better with crime rates than “race”.

    Look up the work of Rick Nevin, which is very extensive.

    http://www.ricknevin.com/

    And there are a lot of other people who’ve studied this: it all agrees.

    Don’t fall for stupid racist propaganda. Find out what’s really been going on:

    Children in some places have been *poisoned* by lead, which makes them grow up stupid and irritable, which makes them more likely to commit crimes. That’s the real criminal demographic: the lead-poisoned.

    For a long time in the US, black people were herded into the most toxic and lead-contaminated areas (by ‘redlining’ etc.), so they suffered this worse than white people. But the highest crime rates in the country (by far!) are from tiny rural areas which hosted lead mines and lead smelters — mostly white people there.

  • neroden

    You would absolutely have been assaulted by the cop if you’d b been in the same position. Cops have taken to assaulting people just because they feel like it. It’s getting scary.

    Thankfully, this cop is being criminallly charged (as he should be) for deprivation of civil rights.

  • bobfuss

    Wait, so your big theory is that a city like Detroit, MI (90% black) has the same per capita crime rate as somewhere like San Luis Obispo, CA (90% white)?

    And it’s all down to lead? Or tin foil? Or gamma rays?

    Dude, we cannot solve this problem until we accept that there is a problem. Even black communities accept there’s a problem, but white liberals won’t.

  • neroden

    If we have cops who believe they’re above the law and can “arrest” people for things which aren’t crimes, even after being notified that the cops are breaking the law, and if they continue doing it and don’t get prosecuted, at what time is it time for revolution?

    One blueprint for revolution: elect a mayor on the “arrest the criminal cops” platform. Promptly dissolve the existing PD and fire everyone (legal when doing a dissolution). Open a brand new PD and devote it to prosecuting the criminals among the former PD; the non-criminals will eventually get severance pay, while the criminal cops will rot in prison where they belong.

  • neroden

    You didn’t read the citations, did you?

    Detroit has WAY WAY more ambient lead (thanks to its auto manufacturing history) than San Luis Obsipo (no manufacturing industry to speak of ever)

    Don’t be an idiot.

    There’s a very real problem. IT’S LEAD POISONING.

  • bobfuss

    But that doesn’t explain similar numbers in Memphis, Baltimore, St. Louis, Gary etc.

    You can’t just dismiss such a striking correlation that casually.

  • bobfuss

    The fact remains that many people are confused about the legality of crossing at many intersections, and if even the cops aren’t sure then how can the rest of us be.

    Stepping out in front of traffic just because you believe, rightly or wrongly, that you have the right of way isn’t smart. Giving lip to a cop who warns you about that isn’t real smart either

  • bobfuss

    No, the attitude you present to a cop makes a big difference. When a cop has engaged me, my response is usually “Good Day, officer, how may I assist you”

    I’m gonna bet this guy wasn’t that civil, and apparently he made to take his jacket off, as if squaring up for a confrontation instead of politely co-operating.

  • David Henri

    That cop should be fired. He’s not doing his job. Anyone else not doing their job would be fired.

  • Pete

    7% of SLO families live below poverty level. In Detroit area that has only recently dropped slightly below 40%. I suspect you’ll find similar percentages in the cities cited in your source.

  • bobfuss

    Economics is certainly a factor. But there are poor mostly white cities that still don’t have the crime problems of the cities I mentioned.

    At some point if you don’t accept a correlation between race and crime, then you are actually getting in the way of solving the problem.

  • basenjibrian

    Old housing with lead based paint. Heavy traffic with (in older days) leaded gasoline.
    You can’t just dismiss casuation that conflicts with your pre-existing racist opinions.

  • basenjibrian

    There is no such thing as “race” that would so unambiguously explain your predictable opinions.
    Given the history of the world, with colonialism, genocide, two world wars, continued massive exploitation, one could argue that the “white” race is the criminal race. Along with the financial crimes that hurt far more people. But, no. We will focus on a black pedestrian who probably “deserved” to be beaten down because he was black and didn’t RESPECT THA AUTHORITEH quickly enough for the petty tyrant in this case.

  • basenjibrian

    So, your position, as an American to boot, is to cravenly obey all authority? Wow…we would still be under the British Crown if oiur ancestors were as craven as you were.
    Maybe the victim was having a bad day? Maybe he had been harassed before by this cop or another cop? It is not the role of the citizen to be craven. it is not the right of the cop to demand RESPECT MAH AHUTHORITEH from everyone he chooses to accost.

  • basenjibrian

    Cyclists are not piloting 4,000 pound weapons at high rates of speed. Use some actual common sense.
    As others have repeated to absolutely no avail….the pedestrian did not violate any laws here.
    I’m curious, and this is an honest question, bobfuss….did you enjoy chewing on paint chips as a young boy? Maybe that explains your degree of sociopathy here?

  • bobfuss

    My point was limited to the observation that the requirement to obey the law applies to all road users and not just the classes of road users that I personally prefer.

  • bobfuss

    It’s a matter of civility and common sense. If I met you, I’d be polite and civil. Even if I disagreed with you, I would not get defensive or aggressive.

    As for cops, my default approach is to be civil and co-operative.

  • bobfuss

    Maybe so on some level. But when we are talking about criminal stats in the US, the numbers are damning. One example – according to FBI stats, black-on-white violence happens at 40 times the rate of white-on-black violence, adjusted for numbers.

    There’s a problem and denial won’t help fix it.

  • bobfuss

    So your big point is that there is 100% correlation between lead paint and black crime?

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