‘I have nightmares’: Black man beaten by officer for jaywalking filing federal suit

The man repeatedly punched by a Sacramento, California police officer during a questionable jaywalking stop alleges he was abused in the Sacramento County Main Jail during his subsequent arrest.

In a lengthy interview, Nandi Cain Jr. said that the arresting police officer and Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies painfully restrained him, forcibly stripped him as part of an unwarranted psychiatric hold and called him disparaging obscenities.

Cain, 24, said he will file a federal civil rights lawsuit by Monday against both the city and county of Sacramento.

Cain was walking home on April 10 when an officer told him to stop because he had jaywalked – a claim that pedestrian advocates dispute based on police dashcam video. When Cain challenged the premise of the stop, the officer told him to get to the ground, and their verbal argument escalated until the officer threw Cain to the pavement and punched him in the head about 18 times.

A preliminary copy of the suit identifies the Sacramento Police Department officer as Anthony Figueroa. Sacramento Police Department spokesman Officer Matt McPhail on Sunday said the department was “not going to be confirming or denying the officer’s identity at this point.”

The suit alleges that inside the jail, “Cain was placed on a psychiatric hold at Officer Anthony Figueroa’s insistence, forcefully stripped naked, and forced to the ground, while multiple officers, including Officer Figueroa, continued to abuse and degrade Mr. Cain.”

The alleged abuse included Figueroa forcing Cain onto the “concrete floor before jumping down onto him using his knees.” Sheriff’s deputies then “used their boots/knees to smash Mr. Cain’s hands and ankles into the concrete floor,” the suit says.

It further alleges that after Cain “broke down in tears … the officers called Mr. Cain a ‘bitch’ and said that he was ‘crying like a bitch’ in addition to telling Mr. Cain that he ‘stank’ and ‘smelled like tuna.’ 

Cain said Saturday that the experience left him feeling “degraded. Less-than. Shamed. Depressed. Humiliated. … All I could do was just pray.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull said Sunday the department was unaware of any pending litigation and did not comment on the Cain incident specifically. Turnbull said nurses decide during a medical intake whether to place an inmate on a psychiatric hold, and they can take into account information provided by arresting officers.

In a statement the day after the incident, the Sacramento Police Department did not provide Cain’s name but said the suspect was arrested for resisting arrest and an outstanding misdemeanor warrant from Fresno County. Police also said that while he was sitting in the back of the police vehicle, he “began to violently kick the interior of the patrol car and had to be restrained by a leg hobble. Once at jail, the suspect continued to be physically resistive with Sheriff deputies.”

Cain was released from jail at 2:30 a.m. April 11 after police investigators determined there were “insufficient grounds” for charging him, the department said.

In his interview with The Bee, Cain said he was walking home five miles from his job as electronic parts salesman when the encounter began. He usually rides his bike or has his girlfriend, Antoinette Stewart, pick him up, he said. That day they’d been arguing, so he walked.

Cain said when he got to the Grand Avenue intersection he was tired, hungry and thinking how he would make up with Stewart.

Continuing his path on Cypress Street, Cain crossed Grand Avenue and a few seconds later heard a car pull up behind him but did not turn to look back. He said when the officer first asked him to stop, he did not know it was a policeman speaking to him. The officer did not initially identify himself, based on video released by police.

“Can you come here, please,” the officer said, based on video. “Can you stop there real quick, bud?”

Cain said that when he saw the officer, “He was walking up toward me aggressively. I felt threatened.”

Cain continued to walk away from the officer and crossed to the middle of Cypress Street.

“As I’m walking away … I’m like, I didn’t do anything wrong, so why am I being stopped?” Cain said.

Cain’s neighbor, Naomi Montaie, was driving by and stopped to ask if he was all right, he said. Cain began speaking with her as the officer continued to order him to stop and get on the ground.

Cain said there was “a lot of confusion going on” as he was trying to talk to Montaie and the officer. Montaie began filming the encounter on her phone.

Cain then took his jacket off, “instinctively as a form as self-defense, just to let (the officer) know that I don’t have anything that he should feel threatened by,” he said. On the video, Cain says, “I don’t have nothing,” as he removes his jacket.

Cain then issued what police initially described as a challenge to fight. Cain said it was a statement made out of fear and frustration.

“If you were a real man, you could take your gun away and you could fight me like a real man,” Cain told the officer.

The officer can be heard saying, “OK, OK, come here” before quickly moving toward Cain and throwing him to the ground.

Cain said that he made the remark because the officer “was clutching on his gun pretty hard, and he’s pushing up on me, and he’s telling me to get on my knees and hands up,” said Cain.

“I never wanted to fight that guy,” said Cain. “I didn’t say those things as a threat or to fight him or I never threatened him. I never put my fists up to fight him or attacked him or anything. I just said if you’ve got a problem then you can take your belt off and your gun off and fight me like a man if that’s what you want to do, but I’m not going to get down on my knees because I didn’t see anything wrong that I did.”

Cain said after the first of roughly 18 punches, he was thinking, “Lights out, it’s over.”

“As soon as he got me on the ground I felt like … I was going to die,” Cain said.

Within hours, Montaie’s video went viral and the Police Department took immediate and decisive action. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave, and the department opened internal affairs and criminal investigations against him. McPhail on Sunday could not immediately confirm the officer’s status.

In a rare move, the department publicly condemned its own officer’s behavior less than 24 hours after the incident.

“The actions of the involved Sacramento police officer are disturbing and (do) not appear to be reasonable based upon the circumstances,” the department said April 11. “The Sacramento Police Department holds itself to the highest professional standard, and the actions that were observed are not indicative of the dedicated women and men who work for the department.”

While the department declined to confirm the officer’s name, Figueroa worked as a Sacramento police officer in 2015, based on a Bee database of city records that year. He previously worked as a community service officer in 2014, according to Transparent California, a public employee data website run by the fiscally conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute. Records for 2016 are not available, and Transparent California does not have city employment information for Figueroa prior to 2014.

The Police Department recently said that the officer in the Cain incident was a two-year veteran of the force, which is consistent with the public records for Figueroa. He could not be immediately reached on Sunday, and a call to the Sacramento police officers’ union was not returned.

Upon his release from Sacramento jail at 2:30 a.m. on April 11, Cain was given a court date for his misdemeanor warrant in Fresno County, police said. Cain said Saturday it stemmed from an incident with law enforcement five years ago when he was 19. He said he was homeless at the time.

Cain said he was in foster care as a child and eventually placed with an uncle in Fresno. At 18, he left his uncle’s care and lived on the streets, working a variety of jobs while trying to get his high school diploma, which he eventually did.

The police encounter in Fresno occurred after he sneaked into the laundry room of a building on Oct. 15, 2012, he said. Cain said it was cold and he wanted a place to sleep and study for a math test.

Cain said police arrested him for trespassing. An arrest report from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department said he was combative after officers handcuffed him.

Court records show he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and was sentenced to five hours of community service. Cain said he completed that service in San Francisco preparing food and serving meals to homeless people at Larkin Street Youth Services.

Cain failed to appear in court in August 2013 to show proof that he completed the community service, and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, Fresno Superior Court records show. Fresno police cleared the warrant when they found Cain on Feb. 11, 2014, and gave him a misdemeanor citation ordering him to appear in court on May 13, records show. A new warrant for his arrest was issued after he failed to appear for that court date.

Cain said he thought the San Francisco agency sent proof of the community service to the Fresno court and has tried unsuccessfully to clear the warrant. He said he plans to attend his next court date.

For now, he said he’s trying to “wrap my mind around” the April incident. Cain said he is having trouble sleeping and has nightmares, and is “paranoid when I walk outside.” He doesn’t like the notoriety of being “that dude who got beat up by police on the internet.”

Cain said he wants to obtain a welder’s certification and training in television and broadcast, and he describes himself as “hard-working” and “determined to go to college.”

But he also believes that the April incident was “messed up. They did all that for nothing.”

“Ultimately it’s about the community,” said Cain. “I could have kids someday, and they could be walking down the street and this could happen to them.”

Bee reporters Nashelly Chavez and Ellen Garrison contributed to this report, as well as Fresno Bee reporter Pablo Lopez.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa