Officer Exonerated After Firing Pepper Ball That Blinded George Floyd Protester in 2020

Nia Love

The Sacramento police officer responsible for firing a pepper ball that resulted in the blindness of a woman during a 2020 protest has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

This is despite the city of Sacramento paying a $3 million settlement to the victim last year.

According to documents released by the department, officer Jeremy Ratcliffe, whose identity was revealed for the first time in these documents, fired the pepper ball during a protest against police brutality on May 29, 2020, in south Sacramento.

The protest, triggered by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, saw several individuals throwing objects at law enforcement officers.

In a statement, the department’s Use of Force committee determined that Ratcliffe’s actions were within policy.

They found that Ratcliffe was deploying less-than-lethal weapons at individuals who were throwing objects at officers when the incident occurred.

The committee concluded that the protester, Nia Love, may have been inadvertently hit by a less-than-lethal projectile.

Former Sacramento Police Capt. Norm Leong, who reviewed the case and rendered the exonerated disposition, defended the decision, stating that Ratcliffe’s deployment of the pepper ball was in accordance with manufacturer and department guidelines.

Love, who was left blinded in one eye as a result of the incident, expressed disappointment at the news.

“I am honestly not surprised,” Love, who is Black, said after learning the news from a reporter. “This is basically saying that me being blinded and having my life completely altered means nothing. Police officers need to start actually being held accountable for their actions. Justice is rarely served when an officer is the one that commits a crime.”

Ratcliffe, who has been employed with the city since 2003, provided his account of the protest in the documents.

He described a chaotic scene where protesters were throwing rocks, bottles, and other objects at officers, leading him to deploy pepper balls to allow officers to retreat to safety.

Questions remain about Ratcliffe’s current assignment within the department, as police spokespeople declined to confirm whether he is still working in the Professional Standards Unit, where he was assigned as of February 2023.

The release of these documents comes after The Sacramento Bee reported on the department’s violation of state law by not promptly releasing disciplinary documents related to incidents causing death or serious injury.

While the district attorney’s office did not review the incident for potential criminal charges, the department’s handling of the case has raised concerns about police accountability and transparency.