Deadly shooting sheds light on need for homeless resources, advocate says

Sacramento homeless advocate Dan Aderholt met Jordan Zenka when he was handing out supplies along Garden Highway in early December. “He was a man struggling to survive the best way he can out here with the situation he was in,” said Aderholt. Zenka, 26, was shot and killed by a Sacramento police officer and California Highway Patrol officer inside a Bel Air grocery store in North Natomas on Dec. 13. According to police, Zenka was wielding a knife and charged at officers. Aderholt said that does not sound like the man he got to know. “The guy I know was a very caring, very loving person,” he said. “He showed nothing but respect when we were out here and he appreciated everything we gave him.”Aderholt is the founder of the organization American River Homeless Crew. He said Zenka helped him hand out supplies to other people in the homeless community. “He was helpful,” said Anthony Pablo. “He was helping us, trying to give us whatever we need out here.”Zenka’s family attorney said his brother helped him post a message on GoFundMe in September where he talked about being a gay man, struggling with abusive relationships and drug addiction. Zenka was asking for money on the crowdfunding site so he would not have to sleep in his car every night. Aderholt said Zenka’s death highlights the dire need for resources for the homeless community. “Not shelters, but triage centers. There’s a difference,” Aderholt said. “There needs to be a place where people can go and get help and get treated for depression, mental issues.”Attorney Dale Galipo said Zenka’s mother will remember him most for his accomplishments: Being a champion swimmer in high school in Oregon and studying aviation maintenance. “She is devastated by this loss,” Galipo said. Galipo said Zenka was struggling with addiction and hopes his death brings awareness that the homeless community needs help. “This is really a mental health crisis, in my opinion, call,” he said. “And if anybody had a loved one in a mental health crisis, whether it was drug-related, alcohol-related, or mental health-related, and they were in a similar situation in the middle of the store, they would hope and pray to God that the police would not kill the person.”In a statement on Wednesday, Zenka’s mother Mary Ellen Lennox said: “My son, Jordan Zenka, was killed by the Sacramento police. Our family is horrified that Jordan was struck down when he clearly needed help. The fear he must have felt, and traumatic, painful death, will be with me and my family forever. Grief like this will never heal. Jordan’s life of promise is now taken from him.”Galipo represents Zenka’s mother and said they plan to sue. “We will file claims and eventual lawsuits against the involved officers claiming they used excessive force and they escalated a situation and this was not necessary to kill this young man,” he said. “I don’t think anything he did deserve the death penalty. And that’s what they gave him by killing him: The death penalty.”Sacramento police said Zenka crashed his car into the store building around 6:30 a.m. and went inside. They said he was armed with a knife. They said he was cutting his own throat and charged at an officer with the knife, who was able to create distance “in an attempt to de-escalate and negotiate a peaceful resolution.” Officers attempted to deescalate the situation during 20 minutes of negotiations. “I think early on the police did pretty well,” Galipo said. “They were talking to him and trying to talk in a calm voice. But it really went downhill when the rest of the officers showed up, they escalated it.”Police said Zenka ran towards officers with a knife again and officers used less lethal methods. Even still, they said Zenka kept running toward them, so one police officer and one CHP officer shot, striking him. Galipo said officers should not have used less lethal methods the way that they did because that scared Zenka and caused him to run. “The canine, the taser, the beanbag, it scared him,” he said. “What they should have done is continue to try to deescalate the situation, potentially call in a mental health professional to talk to him.”While homeless advocate Dan Aderholt said Zenka needed help, he added that it takes a village and for everyone to be involved. “I personally think family really needed to be out there and help him,” he said. “I think our community needs to come together and help our homeless as well. It should be everybody helping everybody.”Galipo said Zenka’s mother was trying to help. “I think that’s unfair because the dynamics of every family is different,” he said. “She was doing everything in her power to get her son the help he needed.”KCRA 3 reached out to Sacramento police and the CHP about the expected lawsuit. Police said it is still early in the investigation and the CHP does not comment on pending litigation.

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