Crime & Justice

What we know about the police killing of an unarmed black man in Sacramento

Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
A California Highway Patrol officer is confronted by a Black Lives Matter protesters during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Black Lives Matter protesters stand on a California Highway Patrol car on Interstate 5 during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
California Highway Patrol officers confront a Black Lives Matter protester as he marches Interstate 5 during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
A Black Lives Matter protester holds a sign as he marches on Interstate 5 during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Black Live Matter protesters hold their fists in the air as they block the entrance to the Golden 1 Center during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Black Live Matter protesters chant as they block the entrance to the Golden 1 Center during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Restaurant patrons look on as Black Live Matter protesters interupt their meal during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters hold signs as they stage a demonstration outside of Sacramento City Hall on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the Sacramento police department after two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his grandmother's house following a foot pursuit on Sunday evening.
Black Lives Matter protesters block Interstate 5 during a demonstration on March 22, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


The fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by Sacramento police has roiled California's capital city, leading to a protest that shut down a freeway and delayed an NBA game at the downtown arena.

Stephon Alonzo Clark, 22, died in a hail of police gunshots Sunday night in the darkened backyard of the home where he had been staying with his grandparents. Police say they thought he was pointing a handgun but they found only a cellphone nearby.

KPCC media partner Capital Public Radio reports that around 200 demonstrators protesting Clark's shooting began a second day of marches Friday:

Similar marches Thursday started at City Hall before briefly shutting down Interstate 5. Protesters then blocked entrances to the Golden 1 Center before tip off of a Sacramento Kings game.

Friday protesters began by halting traffic on Tower Bridge around noon before moving to the California state Capitol and downtown. California Highway Patrol officers then blocked protesters from once again marching on I-5.

Tweet

Tweet

Tweet

Tweet

 

What we know so far

Here's what's known about the case — and what's still unclear:

What led to the shooting

Sacramento police say two officers responded after 9 p.m. Sunday to reports of an unidentified man breaking car windows. Deputies in a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter said they spotted the suspect and reported that he had picked up a toolbar and broken a window in a residence.

Two officers on the ground ordered the suspect to stop and show his hands, but he ran into a backyard of his grandparent's home. Police say he turned and advanced toward the officers while holding an object in front of him.

The officers believed it was a firearm and feared for their safety, the department said. They fired 20 times.

Unanswered questions

The officers called for backup and waited about five minutes instead of immediately providing medical aid. Video recordings released this week seem to indicate they feared the suspect might still be armed and dangerous.

Video

Video

Video

A responding officer told others to mute the microphones on their body cameras. It's not clear why and the department hasn't said whether that violated department policies.

Moreover, there is no evidence from the audio recordings that the officers identified themselves as police, said civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump, who was retained by the Clark family.

The fallen man and the officers

Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers this past Sunday in Meadowview.
Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers this past Sunday in Meadowview.
Courtesy of Sonia Lewis via Capital Public Radio

Clark was the father of two sons, ages 1 and 3, and the fiance of Salena Manni.

"He was goofy, he was funny, he was loving. He liked shoes," brother Stevante Clark told The Sacramento Bee . "He was a playboy, he was smart, he was an athlete, he was charismatic."

Court records show he had several brushes with the law, none involving a firearm. Since 2014 he pleaded no contest to felony robbery, misdemeanor loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution and misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to probation, a sheriff's work program and was required to complete a batterer's treatment program.

Sacramento police say the two officers involved in the shooting have two and four years of experience with the department, and both have four years of prior law enforcement experience with other agencies. They are on paid administrative leave. The department hasn't released their names.

The attorney

Ben Crump, left, then attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents, left, and The Martin's parents, mother  Sybrina Fulton, center, and father Tracy Martin are interviewed by The Associated Press in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Crump now represents the family of Stephon Clark.
Ben Crump, left, then attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents, left, and The Martin's parents, mother Sybrina Fulton, center, and father Tracy Martin are interviewed by The Associated Press in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Crump now represents the family of Stephon Clark.
Susan Walsh/AP

Crump is best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, both young black men shot to death in racially tinged incidents in Florida and Missouri, respectively.

"We are looking into every aspect of this tragic killing, how this young man was executed in his backyard, especially in light of the fact that he had no gun," Crump said. "He made no threats against the police."

He said the police actions show poor training. He plans to meet with Clark's family this weekend, and said the firm will do its own investigation including an independent autopsy.

The police chief

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn
Sacramento Police Department (via Twitter)

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, the city's first black police chief, promised transparency and to work for better community relations since he took charge last year. Mayor Darrell Steinberg praised Hahn for releasing the videos within four days of the shooting instead of the 30 days required by city policy.

Steinberg said the department has improved its policies since the fatal shooting of a mentally ill black man, Joseph Mann, in 2016. He said the City Council will address some of the public's questions including the department's use of force policies and training at a meeting April 10.