The Reality of Policing USA The Shooting of Ariella “Sage” Crawford 2021

Junction Names Drive and Alta Sierra, Grass Valley, California

As you might well know this website is primarily about unsolved cases. While looking at unsolved murders I came across the tragic incident in which Ariella “Sage” Crawford lost her life. For me this is a classic example of the reality of policing in this century. It is also a case that gives anyone a lesson in their own critical thinking. What do you make of this?

Brief Awful Circumstances

33 year old Ms Crawford was with her two young children. She had been walking in the area and concerned citizens had called the local Sheriff’s Department. The concerns they had were that she was walking at times in danger from vehicles. She had also knocked on one woman’s door and pleaded for a lift out of the state. Her demeaner had been rather erratic and frightened.

The unit that was dispatched found Ms Crawford walking on the left hand side of where this Google image shows.

Junction of Names Drive and Alta Sierra, Grass Valley, California


Later released video shows the Deputy try and question Ms Crawford. In my view he started as a human being showing concern for another. He did not begin as some hired thug as the cops are often painted. Ms Crawford was clearly distressed from the start. Her small children were close to her at all times. She became belligerent and agitated from the start.

What she said was along the lines of what you would expect of a defensive mother. The problem was the officer was not in any way threatening. Also from my perspective she clearly was viewing another reality. Within seconds the officer, still calm, requested that she drop the knife she was holding.

The scene was chaotic in that the young children were moving around the area on the left hand side of that image. The officer requested back up and Ms Crawford could clearly be seen taking steps forward towards the cop while brandishing the knife. At one point she shouts ʾAllāhu ʾakbar’ and darts forward.

The officer takes a few steps back. By this time from what I can see he has drawn his sidearm. The back up arrived,ʾ Allāhu ʾakbar  is shouted again. The new officer has a Taser in hand. As Ms Crawford gathers her children with knife in hand and approaches the first officer again, she turns her back. The second officer tried to to deploy the Taser but she turns. If it connected it had no effect. She raises the knife and charges the officer with the Taser. As she runs, so does he.

Sadly, I mean that, she is small but fast and raises the knife. The first officer fires five times and she crashes to the ground on the driveway turning you can see on the right. Still with the knife in hand and mentioningʾAllāhu ʾakbar.

The first officer gathers the children and is helped by a female citizen. After a moment, and following several requests, Ms Crawford either slumps unconscious or drops the knife. Deputies then attempt to give medical aid and a short time later an ambulance arrives.

Clouds Gather.

This was awful, a clearly distressed young woman killed in front of her screaming children. Press interviewed a local civil rights activist and she talked of many aspects of the case. This was before the official video was released. She suggested that the reason that Ms Crawford had been knocking on neighbour’s doors was concern for the children. She said Ms Crawford was escaping a situation at home but did not specify what that situation was.

She suggested that those that had called the police were wrong to do so. One example of what they could have done differently was to have given the woman money to buy a coat for the children. Much was said about the police response. A mental health team should have dealt with her. Apparently there is a system where a mental health professional with a deputy can be deployed. Later it is said that resource was not available that day.

Ms Crawford was described as a free spirit who had moved to the area with her children to get a better life. No mention was made as to why she had invoked Allah. The criticism of the cops and their use of force was unrelenting. In short a picture was painted of callous cops who basically shot her as the easiest option.

My Take on the Shooting of  Ariella “Sage” Crawford

You can view the video that was released by the Sherriff Department yourself. I’m commenting as an ex copper and one that was operational in the UK before the days of Tasers. What happened to this clearly distressed woman was tragic and terrible. It was especially so because the children were present. At one point what appears to be a little boy tried to step between his mother and the cop. I had tears in my eyes as I watched it.

In my day we would have tackled her. That might seem ridiculous in these days of terrorist knife attacks etc. The fact is we would have done. I did this with one particular male in a very similar situation. The thing is though I understand the type of situation and have lived it, my day was then and in the UK. We did not have widespread weaponised attacks on cops. We went to all situations not thinking of anyone having a gun. We had no gun to protect. We had ( in the last few years of my service) a steel baton. That was it.

We were hands on. In all manner of disorder we went forward and grappled mostly. I rarely even threw a punch. When I first joined we didn’t even always handcuff those we arrested. The violence was always a threat, but the worst injuries I knew of from violence were from rocks, knives and iron bars.

The officer who shot this woman did entirely the right thing. She was armed, showed real intent to use that weapon and was chasing another cop. Their training is to do exactly what they did. This extends to not approaching her even though she was down and injured. She still had the knife and in fairness there was always the possibility of another hidden weapon.

Given that she was mentally distressed our old way was the right way. I’d do it here today but it was risky to us and even risky to the subject. We were used to it and did not have the wider concerns of the deputy in the video. It does not fit the culture and experience of the USA however. I am more than happy to discuss with anyone the realities of situations like this so please comment below. The sad reality of policing in the USA is the shooting of Ariella “Sage” Crawford.

What also comes from this was the activist and her take on the situation. She prejudged the very humane approach of the cop even after he knew of the risk to himself. Though Ms Crawford was small, believe me, when a knife comes at you it is largely luck that you avoid getting a length of steel in the leg or neck. Sure you can train and increase your odds of avoiding it but there are no guarantees.

No Logic and No Experience of Violence

Constantly people judge the violence of police officers from a position of little or no experience. Having a fight at school or when in the pub is very different from matching responsibility to threat.

As a cop your fight cannot end with the last punch or push. You have to resolve the situation successfully knowing that you are held to a higher level of scrutiny than none cops. The activist talked of shooting Ms Crawford in the leg or arm. This is an old and tired and frankly stupid comment. As an American she has less excuse than we in the UK have for making such an ignorant statement.

I come from the days when small arms ranges were accessible here. Also I have used firearms extensively abroad. People should try and place a shot that will stop a person moving like Ms Crawford did while only aiming at the leg or arm before they suggest a cop can do it. Even with training you will probably miss. I would go further and say a deliberate shot like that is near impossible.

This deputy had seconds to make a decision to save his colleague. He shot safely at the largest target, the torso. They had repeatedly tried to stop this woman waving the knife. They saw her reach for her children with the knife in hand. They had heard allahu akbar shouted. That raises the stakes theses days and to say otherwise is either painfully naïve or simply a case of denial.

I’m sorry this lady died. I am sorry the cop will have to deal with it. I do think it is a blatant example though of what they face and one more thing.

The activist did what they do best. They pre judge, they further their narrative by smearing good police officers while basking in the safety that the cops provide. There was no logic in her words because she spoke them with no regard to the possibility of being wrong. Time and time again critical analysis is suspended. I won’t do that here. I wish we could teach it in school. Facts are a truth, emotions are not facts.