*Authorities in Nevada County, Calif. will recommend criminal charges be filed against a white man who allegedly terrorized an African-American family during a family reunion in an adjacent campsite.
According to USA Today, Nevada County Sheriff’s Captain Jeff Pettitt said Tuesday his agency would recommend at a minimum the district attorney file a charge of making a criminal threat, which could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. Pettitt said an additional investigation could lead to a hate crime enhancement.
He would not identify the man prior to charges being filed, although Sacramento’s ABC10 has learned the man lives in Auburn, Calif.
As previously reported, the incident happened Saturday night at the Greenhorn Campground on Rollins Lake, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where an extended family from the Sacramento area was on its annual family reunion camping trip, with some members coming from as far away as Florida.
Family member Kanisha Allen, 27, said the group usually camps every August in the Delta or Lake Camanche, but this year sought a campground at a higher elevation with abundant water. Pictures and videos provided to ABC10 by Allen show young children playing in the lake and dancing to hip hop music at the group campsite, and she said family members ignored some racially intolerant remarks they heard from an adjacent campsite.
But on Saturday evening, the adjacent campers became increasingly belligerent, Allen said, apparently led by a man who arrived late in the day. She said after the family reported the campers’ conduct to campground management, the supposed ringleader turned violent and charged the family reunion campsite with what they thought was a shotgun.
“All you could hear was ‘I’m going to kill you f’ing N’s’,” Allen said. “The guys in our campsite told us to run.”
Allen’s 66-year-old mother tripped and fell while trying to escape and a photo provided by the family shows a gash on her face. In the dark, Allen’s fiance recorded the confrontation and male members of the family can be heard trying to de-escalate the situation.
“We’ve got kids screaming ‘are we going to die? Why don’t they like us?'” Allen said.
Allen said the supposed ringleader tried to leave the campground when he heard sirens coming, but campground management blocked the exit.
Responding deputies questioned the man but found no weapon and released him pending further investigation.
Greenhorn Campground manager Mike Liserra has run the concession for the Nevada Irrigation District since 1993 and said he had never seen anything like what happened Saturday night. Liserra was near tears Tuesday as he spoke of the incident and said his staff tried to reassure the family they were safe after the main troublemaker had left.
“We told them we would stay up all night with them if that’s what it takes to make them comfortable,” Liserra said. He confirmed Allen’s account of the night.
Allen said the family, as a group, decided to leave around 2 a.m. Sunday and drove out of the campground. She said it was the first time in her life she had ever experienced such overt racism and it left her deeply shaken.
“Maybe we were a little bit naive to think we could go into an area that is not necessarily known for diversity and think that nothing would happen,” she said.
A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money to have the family return to Nevada County for their next reunion.
Organizer Shera Johnson, a Grass Valley, Calif. resident, was shocked when she heard about what had happened at the campground and wants to prove Nevada County is a welcoming place.
“Let’s bring these people back. They’re kind of nervous to come back to our community and I get that,” Johnson told USA Today. “But in 2016 when they bring their family back, they’re going to have a totally different experience.”