SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Police Department has released two pieces of body camera video and one piece of helicopter video from the night officers shot and killed Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home in South Sacramento.
Officers responded to the area along 29th Street and 69th Avenue after reports that a man had been breaking into cars. Police say they found three cars with broken windows.
In a recording of the initial call to 911, a man whose truck’s windows were allegedly broken by Clark said he did not see the 22-year-old steal anything. The caller also did not notice what was used to break the windows.
“It was weird. He was just standing next to the truck right there by my door,” the caller tells the dispatcher. “And I walked out and I said, ‘Excuse me? Who are you? What are you doing?’ I realized… I saw my window was what was busted out. That’s when I went after him, he took off.”
The caller also describes the man as wearing a black hoodie with either “white stripes or dots.”
CLICK HERE to see the videos in their entirety on the Sacramento Police Department YouTube page. Viewer discretion is advised.
A search of the neighborhood led officers to encounter Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, where he was staying. Video shows officers demand to see Clark’s hands and chase him from the side driveway to the backyard.
One officer shouts, “Gun!” before he and another officer take cover behind a wall. The officer again shouts, “Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun!” and both open fire.
Police Chief Daniel Hahn says officers fired 20 shots at Clark.
Clark was unarmed, holding only a cellphone.
Aerial footage provides a clearer picture of the shooting.
The clip begins with the pilot saying Clark had just broken the neighboring home’s window, which turned out to be a sliding glass door to the backyard, according to a press release. Clark jumps the fence from the backyard into the driveway. He then stands by a truck before running back behind his family’s home.
The helicopter shot shows him running away from officers. Then a body camera shot puts him on the other side of a backyard table to show his position before he turns and is running at the officers when they start firing.
The video then shows Clark collapsing as officers open fire. Shots continue after Clark is already on the ground, on his stomach.
The officers keep their guns drawn on Clark for several minutes until backup arrives, as seen in the officers’ body camera footage. In front of the home, minutes after the shooting, the officers mute the microphones on their body cameras.
Another point of contention in the investigation is that the videos show officers waiting for back-up and handcuffing Clark around six minutes before attempting to render CPR.
City policy calls for life-saving measures to start immediately once a situation is deemed “safe.” Safe is up for interpretation. Officers in town have had suspects play possum, in essence, and attack them once they’ve approached to render aid.
The City of Sacramento and its police department adopted a policy requiring the public release of videos of officer-involved shootings after the 2016 killing of Joseph Mann.
City officials, community members speak out
Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued a statement following the release of the footage. “I am heartbroken for our city,” he said. It also stated:
“I viewed the videos carefully. Based on the videos alone, I cannot second guess the split-second decisions of our officers and I’m not going to do that.
The investigation must be completed. We need more information in addition to the video before we can render any final conclusions.
The questions raised by the community and councilmembers are appropriate and must be answered during the investigation. For instance, what are the protocols regarding use of force and for rendering emergency aid during officer involved shootings?“
“Disturbing is the natural reaction,” said City Councilman Larry Carr after seeing the videos.
Carr represents the district where Clark was killed and has been inundated with community concerns since Sequita Thompson realized the grandson who lived with her was the man killed in her backyard Sunday night.
“The video that I witnessed that I saw wasn’t quite as definitive as I had hoped it would be,” Carr said.
The Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter released a statement Wednesday, saying in part, “Once again, the Sacramento Police Department has violently taken another Black life from our community.”
FOX40 asked the department what the department thinks the videos say to the public.
“Well the goal of this video is so the public can see what occurred, not the police department’s interpretation,” said Detective Eddie Macauley.
Officers would not go so far at this point as to say what’s on tape clears those on scene. They, the family and city leaders must wait on a completed investigation.
“If we’ve made mistakes we’ll admit it and we’ll make sure justice is served,” Carr told FOX40.
After seeing the videos, Clark’s family was too distraught to share their thoughts on camera Wednesday night.