Unarmed Black Man Fatally Shot by Police in His Backyard

Officers involved thought Stephon Clark's cellphone was a gun and fired 20 shots at him.


UPDATE: March 22, 2018 at 10 a.m. ET 

The Sacramento Police Department (SPD) released three videos on Wednesday that captured the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by police officers. Three videos: body camera 1, body camera 2,  and one from the SPD helicopter document Sunday night’s incident.

The helicopter video provides a clearer perspective of the 20 shots fired at Clark.

Clark’s aunt, Saquoia Durham, watched the videos.

“As soon as they did the command, they started shooting. They said, ‘Put your hands up, gun,’ and then they just let loose on my nephew,” she told the Sacramento Bee.

“They didn’t give him a chance to put his hands up or anything, and then when they shot him down, they knew they messed up.”

Original Story Published March 21, 2018

Stephon Alonzo Clark was fatally shot by police in the backyard of his Sacramento, Calif., home on Sunday night. The Black, 22-year-old man was unarmed. He only had a cellphone.

The Sacramento Police Department (SPD) said they believed Clark was armed with a gun when they shot him on the property of the house he shared with his grandparents and some of his siblings.

According to an SPD press release issued on Monday, at 9:13 p.m. Sunday, officers were dispatched after a caller said a male suspect had broken car windows and was now hiding in a backyard. He was described as 6’1”, thin and wearing a black hoodie and dark pants. The officers arrived at the scene at approximately 9:18 p.m.

At 9:25 p.m., an SPD helicopter advised they observed a man, allegedly Clark, in a backyard and began to direct SPD officers to him.

Clark allegedly picked up a “toolbar” and broke a window to a residence, according to deputies in the helicopter. They said he then ran south, toward the front of the residence, where he stopped and was looking into another car.

Deputies in the helicopter said they then led officers to the rear yard of Clark’s residence.

“Officers entered the front yard and observed the suspect along the side of the residence,” the press release states. “The officers gave the suspect commands to stop and show his hands. The suspect immediately fled from the officers and ran toward the back of the home.”

Officers said they pursued Clark and located him in the backyard and he allegedly “advanced toward the officers while holding an object, which was extended in front of him,” the release states. “The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them.

“Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times.”

They waited five minutes before giving Clark assistance.

“The involved officers held their position for approximately five minutes, until additional officers arrived,” according to the SPD. “Officers approached the suspect, handcuffed him and began life saving efforts.”

Clark died at the scene. He leaves behind two young sons, ages 1 and 3.

In a follow-up press release, the SPD said that no firearms were found, only a cellphone.

“After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms. The only item found near the suspect was a cellphone.”

Each of the two officers involved in the shooting fired 10 shots, for a total of 20 shots fired, department spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler said.

The “toolbar” that deputies in the helicopter saw “were recovered from near the broken sliding glass door in the neighbor’s yard: a cinder block and a piece of aluminum similar to what might be used for a gutter,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

Bill Wong, a resident at that house, told the Bee that he didn’t hear or see how the window was broken or hear any gunshots on Sunday night. The sliding door had been patched up by Tuesday morning.

Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, told the newspaper that she was awake on Sunday night and sitting in the home’s dining room when she heard gunshots.

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

Thompson said her husband called 911 to report the shots, as she, nor her husband, heard police issuing commands prior to the shots being fired.

Police interviewed Thompson for several hours about what she had heard but did not tell her about Clark, she said. After being interviewed by police, without receiving information about what had happened to her grandson, she looked out a window and saw his body lying in the backyard.

“I opened that curtain and he was dead,” she said. “I started screaming.”

“It doesn’t seem real,” Clark’s older brother, Stevante, told CBS Sacramento. “In the heart of California, it doesn’t seem real.

“I know there could have been another way. He didn’t have to die.”

The two officers involved were both wearing body cameras. Police said they would release the images from those cameras, along with video and audio from the law enforcement helicopter. The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, per department policy.

More than 100 community activists led by Black Lives Matter gathered in front of the Meadowview Light Rail Station in Sacramento for a vigil and protest on Monday night.

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  • Carole Landau Silverstein

    This is another tragedy! No reason to shoot Unarmed and on his property! What caused this? Was he attacking anyone? So why?

  • Why is there no protocol to wait, try to talk, even find someone else to try to talk and guarantee fair process? It takes time to de-escalate, for a agitated person to calm down. The police view of suspects as nothing but threatening is wrong, and waiting is needed, to allow surrender, not shoot till “target” is “immobilized”.

    • The macho, testosterone-soaked pseudo tough guy talk is encouraged by doughy never-have-beens like trump. “Death penalty” and “hardened schools” it’s all an appeal to scared white people and it ends up killing people who don’t have to die.

    • There is No Protocal to wait if the suspect is Black . I saw on CNN a story where an officer begged over and over and over for a white guy to put his gun down . Even going as far to ask him “ Please don’t make me shoot you “ he begged “ I don’t want to do that “ ! The officer began to back away from the suspect and fell backwards , still begging “ Please put the gun down “ . The suspect told him “ Shoot Me “ ! The suspect began moving forward toward the officer begging him to shoot , The suspect was arrested without harm .

    • There is protocol… for white offenders. They are given plenty of chances and opportunity to comply with police orders. The protocol for Black offenders & non-offenders is Shoot now – justify it later.

  • This won’t stop until cops are held legally accountable for senselessly murdering Black men. That “feared for my life” is the new mantra for shoot first, lie later stance that’s fully supported by law enforcement. If the situation were reversed and Black law officers were killing White men at equal rates, there’d be national uproar such as never been heard. But, since it’s Black folks, deafening silence and weak justifications are the norm. BLM

  • So sad…another young black man cut down. I was taught at an early age that if you see a helicopter above you, go in your house to avoid getting mixed up in the search for the bad guy.

  • mitchell Thomas

    So sad!! Breaking a window does not justify them shooting this guy like that. And, 20 times? Really? I cant believe this is still going on. Are all black men considered a threat (rhetorical)! My hear aches now!

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