The Catalyst nightclub.
The Catalyst nightclub.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Santa Cruz police investigating officers accused of racism during response to alleged nightclub assault

A blog post this week by a Black Muslim woman details an alleged violent attack by security guards at the Catalyst Club on Santa Cruz’s Pacific Avenue — and a “rude, callous, patronizing and racist” response by police.

The Santa Cruz Police Department is investigating some of its officers after a recent blog post accused them of being “rude, callous, patronizing and racist” following an incident at a Santa Cruz nightclub in late 2019.

A March 15 post on Medium.com details a violent attack that Kulwa Apara, a Black Muslim woman, said she experienced at the hands of security guards during a concert at the Catalyst Club in December 2019.

In the post, Apara said two white security guards assaulted her in the VIP area of the venue, despite her having a ticket that allowed her to be in the exclusive section.

Joel Nelson, principal owner of the Catalyst, told Lookout on Wednesday the nightclub is taking the matter “very seriously,” but declined to comment further until he is able to reach out to, and speak with, Apara.

In the post, Apara writes that when she called Santa Cruz police officers to file charges against her alleged assailants, the officers attempted to dissuade her from doing so and accused her of being drunk.

Apara also alleges that it took the police department more than six months to complete a report — and that when the agency did document her attack Apara was listed as a “suspect.”

“The cops and paramedics finally arrived, but things only became worse for me,” Apara wrote. “The paramedics performed an assessment, and offered to take me to the hospital. But the police were rude, callous, patronizing and racist.”

She also wrote: “Despite having a bruised and bloodied face, SCPD treated me as though I was a criminal.”

Attempts to reach Apara on Wednesday night were unsuccessful. Her post is titled “VIP While Black: The True Story of a Black Woman’s Assault in the Liberal Town of Santa Cruz, CA.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the police department acknowledged it is aware of her allegations and is investigating them.

“SCPD takes any allegation of discrimination or racism seriously. Chief [Andy] Mills assigned the citizen’s complaint concerning how officers investigated the Catalyst incident to the Professional Standards Unit. It is currently being investigated,” the department said.

Because the victim is an African American, Muslim woman, the statement continues, the complaint filed against the officers was deemed a Category One complaint, which means it is based on racial discrimination, prejudice or bias.

The police department said it filed the victim’s case with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office within three days and that an internal investigation will determine if the officers’ conduct was within policy.

According to the statement Wednesday, police also said that officers recorded the woman as the victim of assault, not a suspect, in the incident report.

“Ultimately the case will be reviewed by the Public Safety Committee of the City Council, an independent police auditor, and then a synopsis made public through our transparency portal,” the statement said.

Mills told Lookout he was forwarded the blog post on Tuesday.

“My immediate reaction was, you know, certainly concerned for the young woman who experienced a very difficult, traumatic event at the Catalyst,” he said. “We want to make sure that we provided the best service possible to a victim of crime. And if we messed up someplace, then we need to own it.

“But that’s why we do these internal investigations that get forwarded to the independent auditor and then ultimately on to the Public Safety Committee.”

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Contributing: Wallace Baine

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