‘I called for help.’ Family wants change after crisis ends in fatal Sacramento deputy shooting

Jaime Naranjo’s wife broke down as she spoke of the phone call that would lead a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy to her door.

“I called for help and the help I got was that they murdered my husband,” Elisa Dehar Naranjo told reporters Tuesday outside Sacramento County’s downtown Sacramento offices nearly a week after her Jaime was shot and killed by the deputy.

“My father should be here. He should still be here to teach us, but we have to live here with this pain,” said Shavon Acosta, Naranjo’s daughter.

Naranjo’s family, community and mental health advocates at the news conference made impassioned pleas for the mental health services that could have kept him alive; and accountability from a Sheriff’s Office that they say has met these crises too often in the county’s Black and brown communities with gunfire and death.

Naranjo, 55, was suicidal and carrying a machete inside his family’s Fruitridge Pocket home Sept. 28 when the deputy — a four-year veteran of the agency — responded with gunfire. His family said Naranjo was in deep mental health crisis when he was killed.

Sheriff’s officials said in the hours after Naranjo’s death that his wife told deputies he was suicidal, did not have a mental health condition and had not been prescribed medication. She said her husband did not have a history of violence toward his family or law enforcement, according to sheriff’s officials, and had never been placed on a mental health hold.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, when the deputy arrived at the home, Elisa Dehar Naranjo was standing in the front yard and Jaime Naranjo was on the front porch holding a machete.

The encounter lasted less than a minute, she said, when her husband “advanced” toward her and the deputy, who has not been named, Lt. Rod Grassmann said in the wake of the incident.

Grassmann said that the deputy pushed the wife aside and became backed up against a fence as Jaime Naranjo ignored commands to stop.

Grassmann said the deputy rendered aid until fire personnel arrived. Naranjo was taken by ambulance to a hospital but died of his wounds.

Family members carried hand-drawn signs as a reminder of who he was: a father, husband and friend; a mentor, teacher and grandfather. And, as one sign read, the reason why they picked up the phone and dialed 911: “He was asking for help.”

Arranged in a row nearby sat the photos of others killed by sheriff’s deputies when they responded to mental health calls in the county.

“This is the pain you leave in our communities,” activist Berry Accius said, an arm around Naranjo’s granddaughter, Jocelynn, his voice rising over the wail of a fire engine’s siren. “Because you are not properly trained. Because you do not see us as equal. You don’t see that we have loved ones. You don’t care about the end result. You only care about what you leave.

“The move that you made with fear that Jaime was going to do something to you.”

Accius said the community’s calls for alternatives to law enforcement response to mental health calls are routinely “swept under the rug.”

“The frustration that this community is having because we are here once again with something that did not have to happen,” Accius said. “Jaime should be alive right now, telling his story. We are demanding justice, accountability, transparency and funding for mental health crises..”

Accius and family members want deputies’ body camera footage released along with images they say were taken by deputies after Naranjo was killed and the name of the deputy who fired the fatal shot.

“We don’t want a cartoon skit,” Accius said. “ Show us, the family and the community, what actually happened when Jaime took his last breath.

Grassmann said videos of the incident would be released as part of the agency’s protocol in deputy-involved shootings. The Sheriff’s Office will conduct an internal investigation. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Inspector General will provide an independent review as well.

Those at Tuesday’s news conference also called on Sacramento County to immediately fund a 24-hour non-police emergency response for mental health calls.

“Mental health calls should not — should not — be responded by any kind of law enforcement without a professional mental health crisis response,” Accius said. “I’m sure the deputy’s going to say ‘I feared for my life.’ We’ve heard that tale way too often. That excuse will no longer be valid. Changing the events would bring Jaime back to his beloved family.”

The oldest of 10 siblings, Naranjo was “the parental figure for all of us. He was the uncle, of all the aunts and uncles, who was the favorite,” said his sister Nancy Sandoval. “If you talked with him, it would be so he could give you advice: to behave, to be a hard worker.”

But Naranjo had recently been experiencing depression, Sandoval said. The depression was serious enough that his mother arrived from Mexico to stay with him and family. All were there during Naranjo’s apparent break and the encounter that ended his life.

“I thought about him and my mother who came from Mexico to be with him; that he had been experiencing depression,” Sandoval said in Spanish recalling her brother’s final moments. “My mind went blank because I couldn’t believe it. I hope that there’s justice done for him because today it was him and who knows how many in the past and how many more in the future there will be if we don’t do something about it.”

Acosta vowed to fight for change on behalf of her father.

“We will be here. We will continue to fight. We will continue to be strong. Always forward,” Acosta said. “We will fight for you, father. We will fight for you forever. We want change. We demand change. Change is coming. It’s coming now.”