SACRAMENTO — California Highway Patrol Sgt. Matt Burgess says the shooting death of Stephon Clark is a tragedy, tragic for Clark’s family and tragic for the officers involved, whom he knows personally.
He says despite what some may think, law enforcement does not go out with the forethought of killing an innocent person or mistaking them for having a weapon when, in fact, they don’t.
“That’s not what we do,” Burgess said Sunday at Real Life Church.
Burgess says he believes God placed him on Interstate 5, in the path of hundreds of protesters as they made their way onto the freeway, protesting Clark’s death at the hands of police.
“I hold the line for you guys, But I get persecuted from you guys,” he said. “But I forgive you first. Because that’s what God asked me to do.”
He says as tense as the protests were, he understood it.
“I was called everything under the sun. I was threatened. I was almost spat upon. But I took it because I understand the anger, the hurt, the pain,” Burgess told the audience.
Burgess says he pleaded with the crowd of hundreds to not go on the freeway.
“I seen kids run down on the freeway. I know the climate right now. I know there’s racial tension in America right now,” Burgess said. “And I only could imagine what could happen if you took strollers with kids. But I couldn’t prevent you.”
Desperate to do something, Burgess asked protesters what he could do to get everyone off the freeway safely.
He was handed a big yellow sign that read, “Being black is not a crime!”
Back at the station, Burgess says his supervisor asked him about the sign.
“Through my eyes, when I look at that sign, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Burgess said. “And if you see something wrong with that sign, I just ask that you take a reflection in the mirror. Because if that’s your son or daughter that lost their life, would you not at least want someone to hold a sign and acknowledge it?”