The arrest of local Black Lives Matter activist Jaimee Ellison by the Turlock Police Department early Sunday morning sparked a small protest outside the city’s Public Safety Facility that same evening.
At 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Turlock Police were responding to a report of vandalism in the 100 block of W. Main Street downtown when they were approached and told that a subject in a vehicle nearby may be armed with a gun, TPD said in a press release. According to TPD, this witness provided a statement and was not anonymous.
After contacting the subjects in the vehicle and speaking with them, TPD said Ellison, the 24-year-old co-founder of Turlock BLM Movement, began yelling at the officers. The driver of the car, Swede McDaniel, 34 of Modesto, was determined by officers to be on Post Release Community Supervision and was therefore searchable. When officers informed McDaniel that they were going to search him and the car and proceeded to remove him from the vehicle, TPD stated they were able to see the handgun on the seat he was sitting in.
That was when Ellison approached the officers and began to physically intervene with the stop, the release said, following them as they were securing McDaniel in a patrol car and continuing to physically intervene. Ellison allegedly pushed two separate officers multiple times; one strike forced a piece of the officer’s equipment to hit him in the lip, causing a small injury.
TPD said they gave Ellison repeated warnings and told her she was under arrest, but she resisted when they attempted to take her into custody. Ellison was taken into custody and booked on two felony charges of battery on a peace officer and attempted rescue of a prisoner, and McDaniel was booked on the charges of felon in possession of a firearm, prohibited person possessing a firearm, and probation violation – all felonies.
In the hours following Ellison’s arrest, Turlock BLM Movement posted a “call to action” for a protest outside of the police department Sunday night.
“Turlock PD finally got their hands on our beloved comrade,” Turlock BLM Movement wrote on social media. “They have always been active and vocal in their community, and now the system is fighting back. Stand with the community TONIGHT in direct response to this violent assault.”
By the time of the protest at 8 p.m., which saw around 50 attendees in total, Ellison had been released from custody and was in attendance. She told the Journal she believed the cops could have handled McDaniel’s arrest differently and referenced TPD’s Community Advisory Board to the Chief, which was formed as part of the police department’s commitment to public transparency in March. In addition to co-founding Turlock BLM Movement, Ellison was also a Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees candidate in the 2020 election.
“There’s just so many different ways they could have gone about this. The community police advisory — whatever that thing is — you all need to listen up really close because there’s actual people in the community who don’t want to see this happen because it shouldn't have to happen. You all treat us like animals then you want to say that racism isn’t real,” Ellison said.
“...(The officers) could have just approached them like human beings...you don’t always have to put people in the back of cop cars. You don’t always have to treat people like they’re animals or you have some higher moral power over them....We’re supposed to be equals but you want to treat me like I’m lesser than you, so of course when people feel like they're lesser than you you’re goig to have the response you’ve been seeing over the last year.”
Fellow Turlock BLM Movement co-founder Elisha Coleman said he wanted to hold a protest both in response to the arrest as well as the time it took for Ellison to be booked and released from the Stanislaus County Jail. The pair founded the local organization about a year ago in the wake of George Floyd’s death and have since organized protests in several Central Valley cities.
“When you mess with one of us you mess with all of us,” Coleman said. “...This isn’t going to be like one of those one and done things you hear about and it’s over with. We will be pursuing whatever we can against this because it’s not going to slide, it’s not going to fly.”
According to Interim Chief of Police Steve Williams, TPD is reviewing body camera footage from the incident and will release a mid-week update. In a Facebook post on Monday, Williams said Sunday night's protest ended peacefully without incident at about 10 p.m.
"I fully support the actions and decisions of the Turlock Police Officers on the night of the arrest. The officers acted professionally and performed their duty as I expect them to. Both individuals arrested were treated with dignity and professionalism. There was no use of force in either arrest despite the active resistance of one of the arrestees," Williams' post also said. "It is unfortunate that these incidents occurred on Memorial Day Weekend, which is a time to appreciate and honor those who have protected and defended our country."
TPD asks that anyone with information regarding this incident call Officer H. Hernandez at 209-668-5550 ext. 6734. You can also contact TPD’s Tip Line at 209-668-5550 ext. 6780 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.