Sacramento County DA runs for California attorney general as gun violence surges

Alma L. Figueroa

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The recent mass shooting that left six people dead and 12 wounded has put the national spotlight on Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent who is running for state attorney general.

Schubert, who has been district attorney in Sacramento County since 2014, is the favorite of law enforcement groups and victims’ rights organizations, which say California is too soft on crime as rates increase across the state.

“Anne Marie doesn’t just talk about the importance of public safety when it is politically advantageous to do so, she has made it her mission,” Brian Marvel, the president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, an advocacy and lobbying group, said in a statement. “As our next attorney general, she will follow the law, not the politics.”

Schubert is running against Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. If she is elected, Schubert would be the first non-Democrat to hold a statewide office since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor. 

Schubert has already secured sizable donations and dozens of endorsements from law enforcement officials and associations across California. The primary is in June.

“California desperately needs an Attorney General who holds criminals accountable for their actions. California needs an Attorney General who cares about and protects the safety of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day for the people and families of California,” Rick LaBeske, the president of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, a union representing state police, said in a statement.

Schubert’s ascendancy represents a shift toward the middle at a time when some progressive prosecutors, including both the San Francisco and the Los Angeles County district attorneys face pushback and recall efforts.

Sunday’s shooting is not the first time Schubert has been propelled into the national spotlight ahead of an election. In 2018, she ran for re-election in the shadow of a police-involved shooting that sparked outrage and protests in Sacramento.

Stephon Clark was 22 years old and unarmed when he was killed in his grandmother’s backyard by Sacramento police. The officers were not charged, triggering three days of protests outside the district attorney’s office.

“When that happened it was almost like Rodney King in L.A.,” said Ahisha Lewis, the founding director of A Different Path, which offers counseling and mental health services to underrepresented communities in Sacramento. “It was a wakeup call for some people.”

Echoes of Clark’s death continue to reverberate through Sacramento, and they were heard this week as residents struggled to understand why gun violence continues to plague an otherwise quiet city.

Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, the founder of IAMSAC Foundation, a restorative justice organization, said Schubert has not acted in the best interest of all community members.

“She’s trying to show the downtown community that she has everything under control. It’s working in her favor,” he said. “But if you look at the data, she has failed.”

The district attorney’s office declined to comment for this article, and a spokesperson for Schubert’s attorney general campaign could not be reached for comment.

A recent Sacramento Bee investigation found that homicides involving guns were up by 50 percent in the county in 2020 and 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2018 and 2019. And across the state, homicides were up by 31 percent in 2020 from the previous year, making it the deadliest year since 2007, according to the California Justice Department.

“People don’t feel safe,” said Alana Mathews, a former prosecutor who is running for Sacramento County district attorney. “We have seen high-profile cases that are making the headlines, but it’s a different story on the front lines.”

At least three people have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s shooting, which happened shortly after last call about three blocks from the State Capitol. 

Daviyonne Dawson, 31, was arrested late Monday on charges of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, police said. Dawson has not been charged with crimes directly related to the shooting.

Authorities earlier arrested Dandrae Martin, 26, and his brother, Smiley Martin, 27. The younger Martin faces charges of assault with a firearm and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, police said. His brother is expected to face charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a machine gun.

Prosecutors fought last year to keep Smiley Martin in prison while he served a 10-year sentence for domestic assault, calling him a danger to the community, according to a letter Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Danielle Abildgaard sent to the state parole board.

“Inmate Martin has committed several felony violations and clearly has little regard for human life and the law,” Abildgaard wrote in the statement to the parole board on April 29.

Martin was released last summer after having spent three years in prison for domestic violence.

The Prosecutors Alliance of California, a nonprofit association of progressive district attorneys and legal experts, has pushed back against the narrative that California’s parole board is partly to blame for Sunday’s shooting. The board denied Martin parole under nonviolent parole review in May, but he was released in February because of pre-sentencing credits earned before he entered prison in 2018.

In a statement, the alliance said it is disingenuous for Schubert’s office to point the finger at California’s parole board when it was the district attorney’s office that did not seek a tougher sentence. 

“There is no easy answer to the violence that plagues communities,” Heidi Rummel, a law professor at the University of Southern California and the director of the Post-Conviction Justice Project, said in the statement. “We should work together to address root causes rather than finger point for political gain.”

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