Friday, November 29, 2013

An Open Letter From Redwood Curtain Copwatch

This is a guest post from my good friends at Redwood Curtain Copwatch concerning the abysmal behavior of the EPD and the Harassment of our friend and fellow community member Shannon Hodgson.

From Redwood Curtain CopWatch. Redwood Curtain CopWatch can be reached at (707) 633-4493 or at Here is a link to the PDF of this letter:

November 29, 2013
RE: Harassment By Eureka Sergeant Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez
Open Letter To Eureka Police Chief Mills,
It has come to our attention that on or about Wednesday, November 27, 2013- one day before
Thanksgiving- Mr. Shannon Hodgdson was unfairly targeted and told to “get out of town” by Eureka
Police Sergeant Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez. Mr. Hodgdson was on the corner of V and 5th Streets in
Eureka, holding a sign (asking for help), which is constitutionally protected activity.1 Officer Sanchez
drove up in his patrol car and told Mr. Hodgdson that he better get off that corner and he'd better get out
of town. This is wholly inappropriate behavior. The intended and actual intimidation and the inherent
threat in Officer Sanchez' actions is not only unprofessional, inappropriate, and unethical, it is also
unlawful. Officer Sanchez violates a person's civil rights by seriously discouraging their exercise of
Constitutional rights. The blatant and serious discouragement of Mr. Hodgdson's exercise of his rights
by Officer Sanchez, or any officer, must cease. Mr. Hodgdson was not breaking any laws or blocking
any passage, nor was his first amendment expression triggering any lawful restrictions by the
government. As you must know, the government is prohibited from controlling or restricting the
content of a person's speech, except in very rare instances, and cannot impede a person's right to travel
or simply exist in a public space. This was not a rare instance wherein government may restrict a
person's expression, and Officer Sanchez has no authority to “order” or intimidate Mr. Hodgdson “out
of town.” While Mr. Hodgdson was behaving lawfully, Officer Sanchez was not.
Mr. Hodgdson observed another Eureka Officer in the vehicle, who did nothing to stop Officer Sanchez
from threatening Mr. Hodgdson and chilling the exercise of his rights. While we are disappointed that
another Eureka police officer would not fulfill his mandate to stop misconduct and/or civil rights
violations by another officer in his presence, we are not surprised. The Eureka Police Department
(EPD) has a history of covering up, and even encouraging, disregard for peoples' rights, abuse and
crimes against vulnerable people with little means to challenge them, routine civil rights violations,
cruelty, and gratuitous physical and verbal violence by its officers. Officer Sanchez is one of the
primary perpetrators of such depravity and violative behavior against the people of Eureka. If the other
officer, a complicit witness to Officer Sanchez' unlawful actions, had been you, we would hope that
you'd have intervened on behalf of Mr. Hodgdson's civil rights.
Unfortunately, threatening a person who is simply holding a non-commercial sign on public property is
a common practice of Officer Sanchez. We ask that you hold this officer accountable by, at a
minimum, commanding him to stop such abusive behavior.
We are seriously concerned for Mr. Hodgdson's safety, given the inherent threat made by Officer
Sanchez against him and Mr. Hodgdson's vulnerability as a houseless Eureka resident. Officer Sanchez
should be admonished from telling anyone that they must leave town, something that we know he has
also told other people. Evidently, Officer Sanchez believes that he has the authority to tell people that
they are “better off dead,” that “no one will miss you if I shoot you in the back of the head” (true
quotes), and that they cannot be on public property. This abusive conduct by Sanchez is often
witnessed and even emulated by the officers around him. Throughout our years of observing Officer
Sanchez and documenting hundreds of experiences by members of the public involving this officer, we
1 Mr. Hodgdson's activity is protected by the U.S. and California Constitutions. Please see September 21, 2012
Humboldt County Superior Court Ruling/Order regarding the unconstitutionality of Arcata's “aggressive panhandling”
understand that he not only feels emboldened to intimidate and hurt people, but he seeks applause and
glorification for his bullying behavior. By any civilized standard of decency and community
protection, Officer Sanchez' attitude and record of abuse should be, at a minimum, grounds for his
removal from the EPD and for a ban on him owning or carrying weapons.
We do not want Mr. Hodgdson harmed or again threatened by Sanchez. This letter should serve as an
heads-up in the event that Mr. Hodgdson disappears, is arrested on dubious charges, or is found
seriously injured, we will have every reason to suspect Officer Sanchez (or someone acting on behalf
of him, EPD, or other local "law enforcement.") That being said, we much prefer that you (and each
entity to which this letter is going) protect Mr. Hodgdson and all similarly situated residents against any
further abuse, threats, and/or violence from Officer Sanchez and other EPD officers. Mr. Hodgdson
does not intend to leave town and should not be intimidated from exercising his basic constitutional
Please be sure that your officers know that retaliation for this letter (or any other complaint) is not only
illegal, but also unacceptable in your department.
Given that this county's poverty level is highest in the state, we hope that you begin your tenure as
Chief of Police making clear to your officers that harassing poor people is unacceptable on your watch.
Redwood Curtain CopWatch
cc: Eureka City Council
Eureka City Attorney, Cyndy Day-Wilson
Eureka City Clerk, Pamela Powell
Civil Liberties Monitoring Project
Civil Liberties Defense Center
Peoples' Action for Rights and Community
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
District Attorney, Paul Gallegos
Humboldt County Human Rights Commission
Editor, North Coast Journal
Editor, Times-Standard
Editor, Greenfuse Publication
Tracy Rain, Attorney at Law
Peter Martin, Attorney at Law

1 comment:

Fryed Taters said...

My experience in Eureka while working with the homeless and serving breakfast to them twice a week for more than 5 years has been peppered with remarks from the folks on the street that "Sanchez" is a bully. He intimidates and physically abuses those who are forced to live their lives out in the open, those who are not protected by the police. Sanchez has been known to carry a machete that he uses to cut down tall grass and will threaten people with it. This man needs to be brought under control as his example is poisonous to recruits.