April 5, 2021 — A little over a dozen people marched on Civic Center in Ukiah Saturday, calling for an end to police brutality and more mental health services in the wake of Gerardo Magdaleno’s beating at the hands of Ukiah police officers. On April first, Magdaleno, a schizophrenic bipolar man, took some non-prescription drugs after running out of his psychiatric medications. He was wandering nude on south state street when an encounter with Ukiah Police Officers escalated into officers tear-gassing, Tasing, kicking, and punching Magdaleno multiple times in the head. Videos began circulating online almost immediately. Magdelano was taken to jail after a medical clearance, but returned to the hospital the next morning. By Saturday night, he was at home with his family after his sister posted bail. He was charged with public intoxication, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony resisting or threatening an officer.
Early Saturday afternoon, protesters broke out signs similar to the ones they carried during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death beneath the knee of now-former Minnneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
At the head of the procession in Ukiah was Josie Ann Zolata Batiste, expertly steering her daughter Odessa’s red wagon through the construction on State Street.
“There’s no reason for violence, there’s no reason for two, three, four, five cops on one person,” she said. “I’m pretty much disgusted. And sad. It’s scary to have a daughter, it’s scary to be Latin...I love Ukiah, and I’ll never stop sticking up for Ukiah, but I feel like we’re spiraling out of control as well as the rest of the country.”
Shy, who witnessed part of the incident, came from Philo to participate in the march. “I put it together once I saw the videos,” they said. “I thought perhaps he was sick because I saw the firefighter and thought that he was getting care and was concerned because of the amount of police cars, and seeing the report knew it was not care, it was violence.”
A woman named Ashley wore a cap that said “You Are on Native Land” and carried a sign that said “Divest and Invest in Solutions.” She said she had a Native American uncle who was killed by San Diego police while having a mental health breakdown. “I think Ukiah police could adopt, like my sign says, a crisis response team made up of mental health professionals to respond to these types of mental health crises that we saw on the videos.”
Jordan Uggla, too, wants more mental health resources. In early September of last year, the Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by the Measure B Citizens Oversight Committee to use Measure B money to fund mobile outreach teams that would pair psychiatric workers with sheriff’s deputies. Thursday’s incident took place on the border of the city and county jurisdictions.
“I would be happy to pay more taxes to fund support for marginalized people, for disabled people, for mental health services,” he said; “and I’m not very happy that my taxes money is going to pay police officers that beat people that are in crisis when it’s not necessary.” When reminded that we are paying more taxes, with Measure B, Uggla said, “Great.”
One of the videos shows Magdeleno being punched in the head for about twenty seconds straight, sometimes simultaneously by two officers who are pinning him to the ground. Ukiah police chief Justin Wyatt had no comment on Friday, but a press release signed by a subordinate described the blows as distraction strikes, which “allowed the officers a brief opportunity to place Magdaleno into handcuffs, and the technique was ceased.”
A man named Cooper believes it’s time to rethink the budget. “The response always ends up with police departments getting a larger budget, and that’s never going to solve the problem,” he said, echoing other calls for more money to go toward mental health services. Asked what he thought about the press release that characterized the blows as “distraction strikes,” he said, “yeah, that was pretty offensive. You could look at it and understand exactly what they’re doing...it sounds like something made up to justify looking for an excuse to punch the man in the face.”