Shooting of Stephon Clark

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Shooting of Stephon Clark
Stephon Clark.jpg
Image from Clark's Facebook account
DateMarch 18, 2018 (2018-03-18)
Timec. 9:30 p.m. (PT)
LocationMeadowview, Sacramento, California, U.S.
Coordinates38°28′56″N 121°28′23″W / 38.48222222°N 121.47292°W / 38.48222222; -121.47292Coordinates: 38°28′56″N 121°28′23″W / 38.48222222°N 121.47292°W / 38.48222222; -121.47292
CauseGunshot wounds
InquiriesUse of force investigation
CoronerIndependent report found Clark was shot eight times, including six times in the back. The Sacramento County Coroner's report heavily contradicts the report of the private autopsy ordered by the family. The Sacramento County Coroner's report was later reviewed by six forensic pathologists and found to be correct.[1]

In the late evening of March 18, 2018, Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black American man, was shot and killed in Meadowview, Sacramento, California by Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet, two officers of the Sacramento Police Department in the backyard of his grandmother’s house while he had a phone in his hand. The encounter was filmed by police video cameras and by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter which was involved in observing Clark, on the ground and in directing ground officers to the point at which the shooting took place. The officers stated that they shot Clark, firing 20 rounds, believing that he had pointed a gun at them. Police found only a cell phone on him.

According to the pathologist hired by the Clark family, Clark was shot eight times, including six times in the back. However, the Sacramento County Coroner's autopsy report concluded that Clark was shot seven times, including three shots to the right side of the back.

The shooting caused large protests in Sacramento, and Clark's family members have rejected the initial police description of the events leading to Clark's death. The Sacramento Police Department placed the officers on paid administrative leave and opened a use of force investigation. Police have stated they are confident that Clark was the suspect responsible for breaking windows in the area prior to the encounter.

On March 2, 2019, the Sacramento County district attorney announced that the Sacramento police officers who killed Clark would not be charged and that they had probable cause to stop Clark and were legally justified in the use of deadly force.[2][3]

Stephon Clark[edit]

Stephon Clark (born Stephan Alonzo-Clark[4], August 10, 1995 – March 18, 2018)[5] a black American, graduated from Sacramento High School in 2013, where he was on the football team. He was 22 years old at the time he was killed.[6][7][8] According to The Los Angeles Times, Clark lived in a "tough neighborhood" characterized by tense relations with the Sacramento Police Department.[8] His older brother, Stevante Clark, told KOVR that he and Stephon had come from "underprivileged, broken homes".[9] Their 16-year-old brother was killed in a shooting in 2006.[8] Stephon had been released from county jail about a month before the shooting and was staying with his grandparents on and off. His brother said, "He was arrested before, but he's been different lately. He really changed his life."[4][9] Sacramento County court records show that Clark had a history of convictions for robbery, domestic abuse, and a prostitution-related offense. At the time of his death he was on probation for a 2014 robbery conviction.[10] According to the investigation, Clark had searched ways to commit suicide online.[2] A toxicology report also released by police found traces of cocaine, cannabis, and codeine in Clark's system. Codeine and hydrocodone were found in Clark’s urine. Multiple leaders in the community opined that Clark's criminal record was immaterial to his death.[8]

Domestic Incidents Leading Up to Shooting[edit]

Clark had a troubled relationship with the mother of his two children, Salena Mohamed Manni, with whom he lived and who was a repeated victim of domestic violence at the hands of Clark. [11] On March 1, 2018, a neighbor of Manni’s called the police to report that a man had dragged a woman down the hallway of their apartment building and into the apartment where the two lived. The neighbor reported that he saw the man in the apartment straddling the woman while holding her arms to the ground and yelling in her face while a child was crying near them.

When officers arrived at Clark and Manni’s apartment, they both denied having argued and having seen no visible injuries or evidence that Manni had been crying, the officers left.

On March 16, a different neighbor called the police to report on behalf of Manni to report that the two had been arguing and the argument had turned violent. When police arrived at their apartment, Clark was not present but Manni told police that he had struck her four or five times in the face, choked her, and threw her head against the wall. Upon searching the apartment, police officers found a hole in a wall in the apartment with long, dark hairs protruding from it. Officers also reported that the left side of Manni’s face was swollen, particularly around her eye, cheekbone and lip, and she was crying and breathing heavily.

Clark, on probation from two domestic violence convictions and one conviction of assault with a deadly weapon, evaded police in the days leading up to the shooting, while trying to get ahold of his girlfriend. Clark’s phone records showed that he had called her 76 times leading up to the shooting, causing Manni to block his phone number. Clark also attempted to get ahold of his probation officer in the 48 hours after he was reported for domestic violence, but was unable to do so.

The two did exchange several text messages leading up to the shooting, with Manni telling Clark that he would be sent back to prison for the domestic incident and that he would not see his children for a long time. Clark also texted other ex-girlfriends seeking drugs, as well as texting Manni that he was going to commit suicide. [12]

Shooting[edit]

The Sacramento Police Department stated that on Sunday, March 18 at 9:18 p.m., two officers responded to a 9-1-1 call that an individual was breaking car windows.[6] In a media release after the shooting, police stated that they had been looking for a suspect hiding in a backyard. They said the suspect was a thin black man, 6 feet 1 inch (185 cm) in height, wearing darkly colored pants and a black hooded sweatshirt.[6] A sheriff's helicopter spotted a man at 9:25 p.m., in a nearby backyard and told officers on the ground that he had shattered a window using a tool bar, run to the front of that house, and then looked in an adjacent car.[6]

Officers on the ground entered the front yard of Clark's grandmother's home, and saw Clark next to the home.[13][6] Vance Chandler, the Sacramento Police Department spokesman, said that Clark was the same man who had been breaking windows, and was tracked by police in helicopters.[6] Chandler said that when Clark was confronted and ordered to stop and show his hands, Clark fled to the back of the property.[6]

Police body camera footage from both of the officers who shot Clark recorded the incident, though the footage is dark and shaky.[13][14] In the videos, officers spot Clark in his grandmother's driveway and shout "Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop."[13] The video shows that the officers chased Clark into the backyard and an officer yells, "Show me your hands! Gun!" About three seconds elapse and then the officer yells, "Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun", before shooting Clark.[13][14]

According to the police, before being shot, Clark turned and held an object that he "extended in front of him" while he moved towards the officers.[6] The officers said they believed that Clark was pointing a gun at them.[9] The police stated that the officers feared for their safety, and at 9:26 p.m., fired 20 rounds, hitting Clark multiple times.[9][6] According to an independent autopsy, Clark was shot eight times, including six times in the back.[1] The report found that one of the bullets to strike Clark from the front was likely fired while he was already on the ground.[1]

Body-cam footage shows that after shooting him, the officers continued to yell at him as one shined a flashlight at him and they kept their guns aimed at him. One officer stated in one of the body-cam videos, "He had something in hands, looked like a gun from our perspective." Three minutes after the shooting, a female officer called to him and said "We need to know if you're OK. We need to get you medics, so we can't go over and get you help until we know you don't have a weapon."[15] They waited five minutes after shooting Clark before approaching and then handcuffing him.[16] Clark was found to have a iPhone, and was unarmed.[9][7] Clark's girlfriend later said the phone belonged to her.[4]

After more officers arrived, one officer said "Hey, mute", and audio recording from the body camera was turned off.[13]

The Police Department stated on March 19, one day after the shooting, that Clark had been seen with a "tool bar". On the evening of that day, police revised their statement to say that Clark was carrying a cell phone, and not a tool bar, when he was shot.[6] Police added that Clark might have used either a concrete block or an aluminum gutter railing to break a sliding glass door at the house next door to where he was shot, and that they believed Clark had broken windows from at least three vehicles in the area.[6]

Investigation[edit]

The Sacramento Police Department began a use-of-force investigation and placed both officers on paid administrative leave.[9] On March 27, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that his department would provide independent oversight into the investigation, and separately would scrutinize the police department's use-of-force policies and training procedures.[17][18]

Prior to the release of the county coroner's report, the family requested a second, independent autopsy, results of which were released March 30, 2018. The pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, said Clark had been shot eight times from the back or side, adding "You could reasonably conclude that he received seven gunshot wounds from his back."[19] The Sacramento County Coroner's report was subsequently released to the public on May 1, 2018. The county autopsy, conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Keng-Chih Su, indicated that Clark had been shot once in the front of the left thigh, three times directly to the side, and three times in the right side of the back. Because the conclusions reached by Dr. Su differed from those of Dr. Omalu, the Coroner's office had Dr. Su's autopsy reviewed by Sacramento County Coroner Chief Forensic Pathologist Jason Tovar and Sacramento County Coroner pathologists, Dr. Brian Nagao and Dr. Katherine Raven. Additionally, an independent review was conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Gregory Reiber. All four doctors concurred with Dr. Su's findings. [20]

On June 7, 2018, a New York Times team published an analysis also based on videos made by two police body cameras and by an overhead, heat-sensing helicopter camera.[21]

On March 2, 2019, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced that her office would not be filing criminal charges against the police officers involved in Clark’s death.[3] Schubert stated that the officers had probable cause to stop and detain Clark and that they were legally justified in using deadly force against him.[2]

Officers[edit]

The Sacramento Police Department initially stated that they would release the names of the officers who shot Clark within 10 days of the event.[22] Sources leaked what they alleged were the names of the shooters; however, the Sacramento Police Department did not confirm the validity of the names citing fears for the officers' safety.[22]

In March 2019 shortly after the district attorney decided to not press charges against them, the two officers came forward and revealed their identities (Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet), and opened up about their experience during the shooting in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.[23]

Protests[edit]

There were numerous public protests in Sacramento after the killing. On March 22, 2018, Black Lives Matter led a march that shut down Interstate 5 and prevented NBA fans from entering a Sacramento Kings game, resulting in a delay of the game.[24][25][26][27]

One week after the shooting, the Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics NBA teams wore shirts with Clark's name and the words "Accountability" and "We are One" during warm-ups and the national anthem.[28]

On March 31, after an independent autopsy had concluded that Clark was shot eight times, mostly in the back, hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Sacramento. The peaceful protest was led by retired NBA player Matt Barnes, who announced that he is starting a scholarship fund for Clark's sons.[29][30]

Local activist Wanda Cleveland was struck by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department vehicle at a rally. Video of the incident shows that a number of protesters converged on official vehicles and were ordered over loudspeakers to step away. One sheriff's vehicle hit Cleveland and knocked her down while she was standing in front of the car. According to Cleveland the vehicle was accelerating and "never even stopped" when it hit her. She was hospitalized with bruises on her head and arm and released the next morning. Members of the progressive advocacy group National Lawyers Guild who were present during the protest said the vehicle "accelerated very fast" as it hit Cleveland and then "sped off". According to the sheriff's department, "A collision occurred while the patrol vehicle was traveling at slow speeds."[31][32] The California Highway Patrol is investigating the matter.[31][32][33][34]

At a press conference, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones blamed "paid professional protesters" and "professional instigators that infiltrate the protests for their own purposes" for the incident.[35] Protest organizers denied the allegation and were outraged by his comments. Sociology and political science professor David Meyer said Jones's allegation was not realistic. PolitiFact concluded that Jones did not provide evidence to his claim, and rated his claim as false.[36]

Responses[edit]

Elected officials and political activists[edit]

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, initially said he would not second-guess decisions made by officers on the ground. Following public backlash, Steinberg stated the videos of Clark's shooting made him feel "really sick" and that the shooting was "wrong," however declined to comment whether the officers should be charged.[37] House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated that Clark "should be alive today".[38] Reverend Al Sharpton stated that he was alarmed by the story, which he said had not received enough media attention.[39]

On March 26, White House spokesman Raj Shah stated that he was unaware of any comments from President Donald Trump regarding the incident.[38] Two days later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Trump is "very supportive of law enforcement" and that the incident was a "local matter" that should be dealt with by the local authorities.[40]

Clark family[edit]

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the Clark family, stated that the autopsy finding was inconsistent with the official narrative that Clark was charging toward the police officers when they fired.[1] Clark's family expressed skepticism of the police version of events. Clark's brother, Stevante Clark, said of police statements: "They said he had a gun. Then they said he had a crowbar. Then they said he had a toolbar ... If you lie to me once, I know you'll lie to me again."[13] Clark's aunt Saquoia Durham said that police gave Clark no time to respond to their commands before shooting him.[41] According to Crump the officers did not identify themselves as police when they encountered Clark.[28] The police have stated that the officers who confronted Clark were wearing their uniforms at that time.[42]

Policing experts[edit]

University of South Carolina criminology professor Geoffrey Alpert stated that it might be hard for officers to justify their conclusion that Clark was armed, since they had been told he was carrying a toolbar.[43] Peter Moskos, assistant professor of Law and Police Science at John Jay College, said that the officers appeared to think they had been fired upon following the shooting.[44] Alpert, Clark's family, and protesters questioned officers' decisions to mute their microphones.[13][45] Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he was unable to explain the muting. Cedric Alexander, former police chief in Rochester, New York, and former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said that the muting did not appear to violate any policy, although the action would reflect poorly on the officers. He also stated that it is not unusual for police to mute their body cams and that attorneys advise the police to mute conversations to prevent recording any comments that could be used in administrative or criminal proceedings.[45]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d St. John, Paige; Serna, Joseph (March 30, 2018). "Stephon Clark was shot six times in the back, independent autopsy finds". The Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ a b c The New York Times, No Charges in Sacramento Police Shooting of Stephon Clark, March 2, 2019
  3. ^ a b "Sacramento D.A.: No charges against police officers who shot Stephon Clark". The Sacramento Bee. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Egel, Benjy; Chavez, Nashelly; Chabria, Anita (March 20, 2018). "Police fired 20 times at south Sacramento man fatally shot while holding a cellphone". The Sacramento Bee.
  5. ^ "California Birth Index".
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Egel, Benjy; Chavez, Nashelly; Chabria, Anita (March 22, 2018). "Updated: Black man shot by police was carrying cellphone, not 'tool bar,' when he was shot, department says". The Sacramento Bee.
  7. ^ a b Morrar, Sawsan; Lowery, Wesley (March 24, 2018). "Sacramento simmers with tension in wake of fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ a b c d Santa Cruz, Nicole; St. John, Paige (March 29, 2018). "Stephon Clark: Surrounded by love, trouble and tragedy, and now a rallying cry for justice after police shooting". The Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Sanchez, Ray (March 23, 2018). "The man shot and killed by Sacramento police was turning his life around, his brother says". CNN.
  10. ^ Manoucheri, David (March 29, 2018). "Who was Stephon Clark?". KCRA.
  11. ^ Bizjak, Tony. "Who was Stephon Clark? Friends, new report paint picture of a good kid — and a troubled man". Sacramento Bee.
  12. ^ Egel, Benjy. "Who is Salena Manni, the girlfriend of Stephon Clark?". Sacramento Bee.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Levenson, Eric; Park, Madison; Simon, Darran (March 22, 2018). "Sacramento police shot Stephon Clark holding cell phone in his grandmother's yard". The Philadelphia Tribune.
  14. ^ a b Marcolini, Barbara; Cirillo, Chris; Koetl, Christoph (March 23, 2018). "How Stephon Clark Was Killed by Police in his Backyard". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Daniel Brown. "Sacramento police release body cam footage of officers fatally shooting unarmed black man in his own backyard". Business Insider.
  16. ^ "Pathologist Says Stephon Clark Took Up To 10 Minutes To Die". Associated Press. March 30, 2018.
  17. ^ Gabriel, Trip (March 27, 2018). "California Attorney General to Investigate Stephon Clark's Killing". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Elizabeth, Llorente (April 4, 2018). "Stephon Clark shooting: A timeline of events". Fox News.
  19. ^ Robles, Frances; Del Real, Jose A. (March 30, 2018). "Stephon Clark Was Shot 8 Times From Behind or the Side, Family-Ordered Autopsy Finds". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Moffitt, Nick Miller,Bob. "Sacramento Police Release Stephon Clark Autopsy, Calls Family Private Findings 'Erroneous'". Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  21. ^ nytimes.com: What We Learned From the Videos of Stephon Clark Being Killed by Police
  22. ^ a b Chabria, Anita; Egel, Benjy (March 23, 2018). "Names of officers in Stephon Clark shooting released by civil rights attorney". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  23. ^ "In their own words: Sacramento officers who shot Stephon Clark give their side of the story". The Sacramento Bee. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  24. ^ Lillis, Nashelly Chavez, Tony Bizjak, Cathy Locke, Ryan; Sangree, Hudson (March 22, 2018). "Protesters of police shooting shut down I-5 and block entry to Sacramento Kings game". The Sacramento Bee.
  25. ^ Daniela Pardo and Frances Wang (March 23, 2018). "Protesters block freeway after videos show Sacramento police firing 20 shots at unarmed black man". KXTV-TV.
  26. ^ Romo, Vanessa (March 26, 2018). "Stephon Clark's Family Urges Criminal Charges Against Police Who Shot Him". NPR.
  27. ^ "Kings owner tells crowd after Sacramento protests: 'We are all united in our commitment'". ESPN. March 23, 2018.
  28. ^ a b Victoria Kim, Paige St. John & Nicole Santa Cruz (March 26, 2018). "Stephon Clark's grandmother recounts horror of learning police had killed him in her backyard". The Los Angeles Times.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  29. ^ St. John, Paige; Elmahrek, Adam; Winton, Richard (March 31, 2017). "Hundreds rally in Sacramento after Stephon Clark autopsy raises new questions in police shooting". The Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ Sanchez, Ray (April 1, 2018). "Former NBA player leads Stephon Clark protest rally". CNN.
  31. ^ a b "CHP Investigating Injury Collision Involving Sacramento Deputy". CBS San Francisco Bay Area. April 1, 2018.
  32. ^ a b "Sheriff's deputy's vehicle strikes activist protesting Stephon Clark's death". CBS News. April 2, 2018.
  33. ^ Vives, Ruben (April 1, 2018). "Investigations underway after sheriff's vehicle hits protester at Stephon Clark rally". The Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ Kanetkar, Riddhima (April 2, 2018). "Who Is Wanda Cleveland? Sacramento Activist Struck By Sheriff's Vehicle During Protests". International Business Times.
  35. ^ "Sacramento County Sheriff Blames 'Paid Protesters' After Patrol Car Hits Protester". NBC News Washington. April 3, 2018.
  36. ^ Nichols, Chris (April 10, 2018). "Protesters for hire? Sacramento Sheriff provides no evidence for inflammatory claim". PolitiFact.
  37. ^ Levin, Sam (March 27, 2018). "'They executed him': police killing of Stephon Clark leaves family shattered". The Guardian.
  38. ^ a b Lima, Cristiano (March 26, 2018). "After Stephon Clark death, White House says Trump cares about people 'harmed through no fault of their own'". Politico.
  39. ^ Kim, Victoria (March 25, 2018). "Al Sharpton will attend funeral of Stephon Clark, unarmed man killed in Sacramento police shooting". The Los Angeles Times.
  40. ^ Reilly, Katie. "Trump White House Calls Fatal Police Shooting of Stephon Clark a 'Local Matter'". Time.
  41. ^ Chavez, Anita Chabria, Benjy Egel And Nashelly (March 21, 2018). "Updated: 'Show me your hands.' Police video shows death of Stephon Clark in a hail of gunfire". The Sacramento Bee.
  42. ^ "FAQ: Stephon Clark shooting". KXTV.
  43. ^ "Body Cam Video Of Stephon Clark's Shooting Raises More Questions".
  44. ^ "Protests Over Police Shooting of Stephon Clark Block Thousands From Entering Sacramento Kings Game". Time. March 23, 2018.
  45. ^ a b Schuppe, Jon (March 27, 2018). "Why did Sacramento officers who shot Stephon Clark mute their bodycams?". NBC News.