No charges will be filed against Nevada County deputies in fatal shooting

Alan Riquelmy / The Union
Photos of Sage Crawford at the memorial site where she was fatally shot in February 2021 during an interaction with Nevada County sheriff’s deputies in Alta Sierra while wielding a knife.

A year ago, the former district attorney said he expected no charges against deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Sage Crawford. His successor, after taking office in July 2021, said he saw no reason to alter that decision.

On Friday, District Attorney Jesse Wilson made that official.

“The shooting of Ms. Crawford by Deputy Caleb Toderean was justified within the meaning of (the law),” Wilson said in an after-action report. “Under the circumstances known to him at the time of this incident, Deputy Toderean had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself and Deputy (Matthew) Harrison.”

Nevada County deputies responded on Feb. 4, 2021, to “suspicious circumstances” in Alta Sierra. They found Crawford, also called Deirdre Eloise Hawkins, at Alta Sierra and Names drives, the after-action report states.

Dash cam video shows the deputies approaching Crawford as she walks with her two children in the middle of the street. She’s brandishing a knife, yelling and screaming at the deputies. At one point she runs toward an officer with the knife. A deputy tries unsuccessfully to use a stun gun on her. She’s then shot with a handgun. Taken to a nearby hospital, Crawford was pronounced dead.

“Our role in this is very narrow,” Wilson said Friday, explaining the purpose of the after-action report. His office examined whether the facts of the shooting, including video taken, could lead prosecutors to seek charges that would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s concerning to Leia Schenk, founder of Empact, a nonprofit organization for social change. She’s previously spoken on behalf of Crawford’s family.

“There are other variables when they go out to a call,” Schenk said. “If they were in fear of their life, they didn’t have to get out of their car. They’re not taking anything else into consideration.”

Authorities have said it appeared Crawford suffered from a mental health condition at the time of her death. Schenk has argued a mental health team should have responded that day. More mental health calls will happen, Schenk said, and she fears more lives will be lost.

“I definitely think there has to be a change,” she added.

Sheriff Shannan Moon through a spokesperson declined an interview, citing pending litigation. She instead issued a statement.

“As with any loss of life, this was a tragic event for Ms. Crawford’s family, friends, our community and our office,” Moon said. “I am thankful that our District Attorney’s Office completed an independent and thorough investigation. All of our staff are called upon to handle complex, quickly evolving situations, and we do so with care, concern, and compassion. I am committed to the safety of our community and to our staff that do their best every day.”

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