Sacramento police fatally shot Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black man, on March 18 in his own backyard. According to reports, police responded to reports of someone breaking car windows and mistook Clark’s cellphone for a weapon.
Police Gun Down Unarmed Man
Stephon Clark, 22, was gunned down by Sacramento police on Sunday. Officers reportedly thought he was armed. However, no weapons were found on the scene.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn explained the timeline of events in a statement.
According to reports, officers responded to calls about someone breaking into cars in the Meadowview area. The initial statement said that a police helicopter spotted someone in the backyard of an occupied home.
The person appeared to have broken a glass door with a “tool bar.” The person then jumped a fence into the backyard of another home.
A pair of officers on the ground believed the suspect to be Clark. They confronted him in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, where some of his siblings also lived.
Police said that Clark approached them extending his hands forward. He was holding something they believed was a gun. “Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times,” said officials in a release.
Afterwards, the statement added, officers waited five minutes for backup to arrive. They then approached the lifeless Clark, “handcuffed him and began life-saving measures.”
Investigation into the Deadly Shooting
An investigation revealed that no weapon was found on him or at the scene. The on-scene investigation concluded that the item Clark held was a cell phone.
While the investigation is ongoing, the two police officers who shot Clark were placed on paid administrative leave, standard procedure during an officer-involved shooting.
One officer was with Sacramento PD for two years, the other four years. Each had four years of experience in other law enforcement agencies.
Accounts of what Clark held changed repeatedly in police reports. The object went from being a gun to a “tool bar” in later reports. Neither were found at the scene.
The “tool bar” reportedly seen by a police helicopter that was used to break a neighbor’s sliding glass door was a cinder block and a piece of aluminum, similar to what is used for a gutter. The neighbor didn’t realize his door was broken, nor did he hear the gunshots. The broken sliding door was patched up on Tuesday morning.
Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson, was at home when she heard the gunshots and ducked for cover. She said that neither she nor her husband heard police issue orders before opening fire.
She told the media that, after shooting her grandson, officers interviewed her for several hours. However, they didn’t inform her about Clark’s death. She eventually peeked outside her window and found her grandson’s body. “I opened that curtain and he was dead,” Thompson said. “I started screaming.”
Thompson said it was not uncommon for the family to enter the house through her backyard because the front doorbell doesn’t work. Her husband is in a wheelchair and she has poor mobility.
Body camera footage from both officers will be released in few days, as is standard procedure.
After the incident, hundreds of activists with Black Lives Matter gathered in front of Meadowview Light Rail Station, blocks away from Clark’s home. The vigil and protest was joined by Clark’s family and other members of the community.
Who Was Stephon Clark?
Stephon Alonzo Clark is a stay-at-home father who leaves behind two sons, Cairo and Aiden. His sons are are aged one and three.
His birth certificate reads “Stephen,” however, he changed the spelling to differentiate it from his father. His friends also called him “Zoe,” short for his middle name, Alonzo.
He went to Sacramento High School and had a liking for sneakers, football, and video games. Loved ones knew Clark as “a good person” who made others laugh.
His family claims that he was killed unjustly. They say he was shot in the back as he was running away.
Authorities haven’t confirmed where Clark was shot. The coroner’s report will reveal how many times he was hit, and where the bullets landed.
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for Stephon Clark’s funeral. It currently has over $7,000 out of the $10,000 goal.
His brother, 25-year-old Stevante Clark, said the family plans to bury Stephon next to their younger brother, who was also a victim of gun violence years ago.