Stephon Clark is a 22 years old convert to Islam. He is the father of two sons, aged 1 and 3. Clark’s brother told KOVR that he and Clark had come from “underprivileged, broken homes”. He said that Clark had been arrested and jailed previously, but had changed his life and was a devoted father who only cared about his children.
Stephon Clark was shot and killed on the evening of March 18, 2018, by two officers with the Sacramento Police Department in Sacramento, California. The officers were looking for a suspect who was breaking windows in the Meadowview neighborhood, and believed that Clark, a 22-year old African-American man whom they found on his grandmother’s front lawn, was responsible. Clark ran from the police in an encounter that was filmed by police videocameras. The officers stated that they shot Clark, firing 20 rounds, after believing that he had pointed a gun at them. Clark was found to be unarmed, having only a cell phone.
The shooting caused large protests in Sacramento, and Clark’s family members have expressed skepticism about the police description of 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 person responsible for breaking windows in the area prior to the encounter.
The Sacramento Police Department stated that on Sunday, March 18 at 9:18 p.m., two officers were responding to a call that someone was breaking car windows. 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 (1.85 m) in height, wearing darkly colored pants and a black hooded sweatshirt. 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.
Officers on the ground entered the front yard of Clark’s grandmother’s home, and saw Clark next to the home. 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. Chandler said that when Clark was confronted and ordered to stop and show his hands, Clark fled to the back of the property.
Police body camera footage from both officers who shot Clark recorded the incident, though the footage is dark and shaky. In the videos, officers spot Clark in his grandmother’s driveway and shout “Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop.” The video shows that the officers chased Clark into the backyard and an officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun!” Approximately three seconds elapse and then the officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun”, before shooting Clark.
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. The officers said they believed that Clark was pointing a gun at them. The police stated that the officers feared for their safety, and at 9:26 p.m., fired 20 rounds, hitting Clark multiple times.
After shooting Clark, officers waited five minutes before approaching and then handcuffing him. Clark was found to have a white iPhone, and was unarmed.
After more officers arrived, one officer said “Hey, mute”, and audio recording from the body camera was turned off.
The Police Department stated that Clark was found with a “tool bar”. On the evening of March 19, one day after the shooting, Police clarified that Clark possessed a cell phone when he was shot, not a tool bar. Police added that Clark had used either a concrete block or an aluminum gutter railing to break a sliding glass door one house adjacent to where he was shot, and that they believed Clark had broken windows from at least three vehicles in the area.
Protests occurred over the shooting in Sacramento over the following week. 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 delaying the game.
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.