SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A man hit Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in the face with a pie at a charity dinner Wednesday night, and an official says the former NBA star went on the defensive. One report describes Johnson’s actions as far more offensive.
The mayor — who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and corruption — had given a speech at the Seeds of HOPE dinner at Sacramento Charter High School before the man came up, pulled the pie from a bag and shoved it into Johnson’s face, the mayor’s Chief of Staff Crystal Strait said.
She said the mayor defended himself against the man, but she would not give details.
After this, the protester reportedly said something to Johnson. This prompted the mayor to allegedly tackle the protester and punch him in the face “repeatedly,” more than half a dozen times, landing “five to 10” blows.
One witness described it as a “bloody pulp.” Other witnesses say that the pie-thrower was hit multiple times in the face and will definitely need stitches, and that there was visible blood.
Strait emphasized that it was a genuinely serious and scary situation, and there was nothing funny about it.
“The mayor was assaulted. I was standing right there and I’m still pretty shaken up,” Strait said, speaking some three hours after it happened.
Police agreed. They arrested 32-year-old Sean Thompson on suspicion of assaulting a public official, which is a felony, the Sacramento Police Department said in a statement.
Thompson was treated for a minor injury before he was taken to be booked into jail. It wasn’t clear if he had retained an attorney.
Both police and Strait said Thompson was previously unknown to the mayor and his staff.
After he cleaned up, Johnson spoke again to the audience to calm nerves at the event, which was held in the school’s garden and featured many of the city’s top restaurateurs.
Johnson, who had a long career as an NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns and a brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers before becoming mayor, has about two months left as mayor after deciding not to seek a third term.
The 50-year-old is married to Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools, who was at the event Wednesday night.
Johnson’s signature achievement in office was getting a $500 million arena built for the city’s NBA team, the Sacramento Kings.
His final two years in office were marked by the re-emergence of a decades-old claim of sexual abuse from a woman who was a teenager at the time, when Johnson played for the Suns. The Phoenix Police Department investigated but did not file charges.
Johnson has both denied the allegations and denied that they had anything to do with his decision to leave office.