Even though more than three dozen people have been arrested for trashing and stealing from businesses in downtown Sacramento, it is presumed that there are more who got away. To help the Sacramento police and sheriff’s departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been conducting investigations to identify those responsible, and for assaults on officers with rocks, bricks, and other items, which has injured 15 officers.
The incidents occurred during nightfall after demonstrations against the police officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. The FBI’s investigation comes as an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are using technology and algorithms to prevent and solve crime, although some groups have sued, claiming government overreach.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office filed charges in 11 cases on Tuesday. CapRadio’s Sacramento region reporter Bob Moffitt spoke with Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Sean Ragan about the use of technology and the efforts to find those who got away.
Business owners in Sacramento and Fairfield and all over the state have been victimized in the late evening and early morning hours. Protestors and government officials here say this was the work of forces from outside the area. Do we know if that’s true?
I haven’t seen the data yet. This is still fairly fresh. I will say the vast majority of people that are out on the street expressing themselves are doing so lawfully. It’s a fringe minority of people that are trying to take advantage of the situation, to either cause chaos or line their own pockets with free goods, so to speak.
How much can law enforcement do to stop a group from clearing out a business of its contents and destroying the rest?
The name of the group doesn’t really matter. It’s the activity that the group may be involved in and it’s usually the individuals. If they're involved in criminal activity or there’s indicators that they’re planning criminal investigators then we can begin to investigate that. But just because someone is the member of a group that does not give us the authority to investigate them.
People have told us they believe law enforcement uses face-scanning technology, cell-phone tracers, license card readers and the like to track and trace people during protests. Do you?
It’s a good question, and I know there’s a lot of confusion out there and the law can be complicated. Really, what it comes down to is you have to have criminal activity or you believe a crime is going to occur. You have evidence, you have probable cause, (you have) reasonable suspicion. (Those) are kind of the legal terms. You present that to a lawyer, whether it’s the district attorney or U.S. attorney, and then it’s presented to a judge, who’s really an independent fact-reviewer. The judge provides law enforcement the ability to utilize those techniques. There is no wide-spread surveillance of people who are lawfully assembling or taking advantage of their constitutionally-protected rights.
You’ve put out a call for tips.
We’re looking for people to come forward and provide us information about criminal activity that’s occurring, that they’re seeing while they’re out lawfully protesting, lawfully assembling, and they may see others, the small minority of people who are taking advantage of the situation by committing criminal acts either by looting or attacking people. And if they see those things occurring and they can provide us information — whether it’s what it occurred, where it occurred, descriptors of the people involved — that’s key for us. We’ll follow up on those tips.
The other thing that we’re asking the public to do is provide us with photos, videos that they may take on their cell phones or their cameras that show people engaged in criminal activity.
With the FBI helping find people who destroyed and stole from businesses, does that mean federal charges and local charges for those arrested?
It could be both. The majority of charges likely that would come from any of the criminal activity occurring during some of these protests would be local charges, state charges. We would just be assisting. We would though, of course, look for any violation of federal law that may be involved as well.
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