‘It Will Just Get Worse’
Recall Valenzuela and save neighborhoods, Dan Tibbitts says
By Cecily Hastings
“Kate was my sister, but also my close friend. We lived a mile apart and walked several times a week in Land Park with our dogs. And, as of that fateful day last year, my friend is not here anymore. That will be with me forever,” Dan Tibbitts says.
Kate Tibbitts was raped and murdered last September in her home on 11th Avenue. Her dogs Molly and Jenny were killed. Her house was torched.
The next day police arrested a homeless man named Troy Davis for parole violations and warrants. Murder and rape charges were added when investigators linked Davis to Kate’s death.
A history of assault, battery and drug charges follows Davis from at least 2013. The parolee was arrested for car theft three months before Kate was killed. But California’s zero-bail policy put him back on the streets almost immediately.
“Kate was taken from us in an extremely violent manner that nobody should ever experience,” Dan says. “Most people have absolutely no idea what victims and their families go through in the aftermath.”
Dan is working to recall City Council member Katie Valenzuela, who seeks to defund police while advocating for homeless people.
“My issues with Councilmember Valenzuela are simple,” he says. “First, she refuses to hold the homeless community accountable for the crimes they commit, which is a bad thing by itself. Let alone hold them accountable for the crimes they commit against victims in their own community.
“This all is made even worse when she wants to drastically defund the police, which disproportionately harms low-income and minority neighborhoods. Folks who in fact want more police presence rather than less. Either one is a bad, but in combination, it’s deadly. My sister Kate paid the ultimate price.”
Dan believes more residents will come to share his feelings through tragic experiences.
“Eventually we’re all going to be victimized—or be acquaintances, relatives and friends of victims,” he says. “When Prop. 57 passed—I opposed it—I thought it only a matter of time for society to figure out that releasing these bad people from prison has very negative consequences for our society. With even more prisoner releases ordered by state COVID policies, there is no doubt it will just get worse.”
Proposition 57 increased parole and “good behavior” opportunities for nonviolent criminals. Voters approved the constitutional amendment by 64 percent in 2016.
Dan Tibbitts, a civil engineer, was shocked when he reviewed the initiative’s campaign. He says, “Prop. 57 was sold to voters based upon a complete and utter lie. It was supposed to only apply to nonviolent felons. But the state’s policy language also includes violent felons. It’s detailed on the Department of Corrections website. And it was under that exact situation that Kate was murdered.”
Before his sister was killed, Dan was skeptical of criminal justice reforms that ignore reality.
“There are and have always been horrible people in this world,” he says. “That is why we have laws, law enforcement, district attorneys, judges, juries and prisons. They all exist to protect the rest of us from the danger they bring.”
Dan believes his sister’s death demonstrates the “perfect storm” of a broken criminal justice system. He cites Proposition 47, which reduced some nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors in 2014. It passed by 60 percent.
“First, (Davis) was released early for his second violent felony under Prop. 57,” Dan says. “Second, (Davis) was arrested for auto theft in June of last year. Prop. 47 recategorized auto theft as a nonviolent crime, so he was released.
“Strike three is that zero bail is offered in Sacramento, so when he was released for the auto theft it was with zero bail.”
Supporters of zero bail say the policy helps people who lack financial resources. But transients often have no reason to stay around or report to court.
“(Davis) didn’t show up for his arraignment for that car theft,” Dan says. “So it was three strikes, but it’s not about him. It was my sister who was struck out.”
Dan Tibbitts believes state government is determined to release convicted felons early. “We need a strong police presence, and defunding the police is going the absolute wrong direction,” he says.
The Tibbitts family works with Crime Victims United to support and strengthen public safety and protect the rights of victims. The organization hopes to analyze crime statistics to better understand the damage done by Propositions 47 and 57.
Since 2019, the homeless population in Sacramento County has nearly doubled, with almost 10,000 individuals living outdoors. Sacramento has more homeless people than San Francisco, often considered ground zero for the crisis.
Combined with a state policy of early release of prisoners, decriminalizing violent offenses and zero bail, Dan Tibbitts may be prophetic when he says everyone will become a victim.
Will recalling Valenzuela help?
“It’s a great place to start and also will send the message to other politicians who support her dangerous policies destroying our neighborhoods,” Dan says.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.