Sacramento shooting: How police opened fire on unarmed black man with cellphone

Saul Franklin
March 24, 2018

Four days after police shot and killed an unarmed Black man identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark, protests erupted on the streets of Sacramento. A protest was also held at Sacramento's City Hall, where people called for the arrest of the two officers who shot Clark.

There was shouting but no apparent violence as frustrated fans waited outside.

Black Lives Matters demonstrators march in downtown Sacramento before a game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.

In their initial press release regarding the incident, police said officers were responding to a report of someone breaking auto windows near the home where a man, later identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark, lived with his grandparents and siblings.

"Something has to change", the basketball player said, adding: "Police unfortunately view black and brown men as a threat when they are certainly not".

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee, said he understood the public's reaction but called for calm. Clark's family, through their attorney Benjamin Crump, disputed the police account that Clark was breaking windows.

One officer is heard "doing a mental inventory to make sure there's no holes in his body" because the officers appear to think Mr Clark may have shot at them and missed, said Peter Moskos, a former police officer and assistant professor in the Department of Law and Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The only object found near Clark's body was a cellphone.

Steinberg said the department has improved its policies since the fatal shooting of a mentally ill black man, Joseph Mann, in 2016.

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The girl was in intensive care with life-threatening critical injuries, while the boy was in good condition, the sheriff said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement that although his prayers are with the victims, "prayers are not enough".

"We are looking into every aspect of this tragic killing, how this young man was executed in his backyard, especially in light of the fact that he had no gun", Crump said.

In the footage, both officers reassure each other that they have not been hit. "We are committed to providing timely information and communicating openly with our community". As the officers run into a backyard, they turn a corner and spot Clark in the glare of their flashlights. It is dark outside and a flashlight from one body camera briefly shows the backyard, but the man is not visible.

According to the Sacramento Police Department, Clark was seen breaking into at least three vehicles and a neighbor's home.

Each officer had fired 10 bullets by the time it was over, the department said.

"He just broke the window, running south, to the south", an officer said in the chopper video. "Stop! Stop!" an officer yells. "I told the officers, you guys are murderers, murderers, murderers".

"The Sacramento Police Department recognizes the significance of this incident and the impact it has on our community", the department wrote on its Facebook page Wednesday.

After Clark's death, the NAACP released a statement saying that although it respected the role of police, shootings such as the latest one have angered, frustrated and frightened the community. The officers involved in the shooting have since been placed on paid administrative leave.

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