Sacramento police accused of murdering unarmed black man in his grandparents’ backyard


March 22, 2018 20:18:19

Sacramento Police officers have been accused of murdering an unarmed black man who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” in his own grandparents’ backyard and holding a phone the officers mistook for a gun.

Authorities have not released the man’s name but family members have identified him as 22-year-old Stephon Alonzo Clark.

Mr Clark was shot on Sunday night by two officers who were investigating reports a man had been seen breaking into at least three vehicles and a home.

Body camera footage released by the Sacramento Police Department shows the officers yelling for Mr Clark to show his hands, then shouting “gun, gun, gun” before firing multiple times.

Infrared footage from a police helicopter shows the officers opening fire as Mr Clark approaches them.

The only light in the bodycam video is provided by police torches, which briefly show the backyard but only show Mr Clark as an indistinct shape in the distance, and does not show him while approaching the officers or during the shooting.

The footage shows the officers reloading, calling out, “Show me your hands” and calling for backup.

When backup arrived, one of the officers who fired is heard in the video saying, “We can’t see his left hand”.

“What’d he have on him?” someone asks.

“Something in his hands, it looked like a gun from our perspective,” one officer replies.

Officers found a phone near Mr Clark’s left hand. They did not find a gun at the scene.

Sacramento police said deputies in the helicopter saw a man break a neighbour’s sliding glass door, but the helicopter footage does not show the alleged break-in.

The footage picked up as the man climbed over a fence into the property where Mr Clark was shot, then lost sight of him in the yard.

Black Lives Matter demands answers for ‘police murder’

Mr Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson, told The Sacramento Bee he “was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own backyard?”

“C’mon now, they didn’t have to do that,” she said.

Ms Thompson had not heard the police approach, and had been startled by gunfire.

“The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground,” she said.

“I told the officers, ‘You guys are murderers. Murderers’. You took him away from his kids.”

Mr Clark had two sons aged 1 and 3 with his fiancee, Salena Manni.

Ms Thompson disputes the police version of events, saying her grandson was short and not the man seen in the helicopter video — who police had described on Monday as being over six feet tall.

The family said their doorbell was broken and family members would tap on the back window for someone to open the garage door.

Mr Clark was staying with his grandparents, whom he routinely helped care for, his cousin Sonia Lewis told Capitol Public Radio.

Black Lives Matter Sacramento called it a police murder and demanded answers.

‘I cannot second-guess the split-second decisions of officers’

City councillor Larry Carr decried the loss of life and said police must provide timely information.

“Based on the videos alone, I cannot second-guess the split-second decisions of our officers and I’m not going to do that,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement.

“The investigation must be completed. We need more information in addition to the video before we can render any final conclusions.”

Mr Steinberg said appropriate questions have been raised about the protocols for using force and rendering emergency aid during police shootings and they must be answered in the investigation.

The police department could not say how many times Mr Clark was hit, and the coroner’s office was not releasing information until his relatives were notified.

The department said the two officers have been with Sacramento police for two and four years respectively, but each has four years’ previous experience with other law enforcement agencies.

Both are on paid administrative leave.





First posted

March 22, 2018 20:08:52

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