Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez and Sheriff Bill Brown have been doing double backflips in apologizing to downtown neighborhood activist Juanita Medina, who was taken from her car and handcuffed during the execution of a search warrant gone very awry the afternoon of March 27. Medina has stated that the officers-both Sheriff’s deputies-never identified themselves as law enforcement officials, so she feared she was the victim of a carjacking at the time. Medina, who lives on the 400 block of De la Vina Street, has been agitating for more law enforcement in the neighborhood to help eliminate drug dealers, gang members, and street drunks. Sheriff Brown and Chief Sanchez both concede that Medina’s detention was a big mistake. Sheriff’s deputies were attempting to serve a warrant on suspected drug dealers living near the intersection of De la Vina and De la Guerra streets but transposed the names of the streets and addresses.
Last week, Sanchez met with Medina. “I wanted to assure [Medina and her allies in the anti-crime fight] that I felt terribly about what happened and that we want them to continue working with law enforcement to clean up their neighborhoods, despite what happened,” Sanchez said, who also noted that none of the women complained about the conduct of the Santa Barbara Police officers who were called as back-up during the incident.
Sheriff Brown said, “I apologize to Ms. Medina for the mistake,” adding, “of all the people for it to happen to-someone trying to make a difference by improving the neighborhood. We regret very much that this happened.” Brown said he placed a call to Medina, but had not spoken to her directly. It’s Brown’s belief, however, that the deputies identified themselves appropriately, and Medina was cuffed only after she refused to cooperate. He said his department is still investigating the matter.