Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black man, was fatally shot and killed by Sacramento police in his own backyard Sunday night. Clark was carrying a cellphone, not a firearm, when confronted by two officers, the department said in a statement late Monday.
Stephon Clark was gunned down in the backyard of the south Sacramento home he shared with his grandparents and siblings, his 25-year-old brother Stevante Clark told The Sacramento Bee. The police department said officers were responding to a call that a 6-foot-1 black man wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and dark pants was taking cover in a residential backyard after shattering car windows with a toolbar.
Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies circling the area in a helicopter spotted Clark in a nearby backyard, reportedly breaking a window with a toolbar, and directed the two officers on the ground to his location.
Law enforcement officials said they believed Clark was armed with a gun at the time, though no firearm was found at the scene. Officials said Clark had an "object in his hands" that he extended while advancing towards the officers, and that's when "officers approached the suspect, handcuffed him and began life saving efforts." The officers fired multiple rounds at Clark, shooting him several times, officials said.
The 22-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene by fire personnel. He left behind two young sons, Cairo and Aiden, his family told The Bee.
Sequita Thompson, Clark's grandmother, told the news outlet that she was awake and sitting in the dining room when she heard four gunshots. “The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground," she said. Thompson also said neither she nor her husband heard the officers issuing commands before firing.
Thompson said it was normal for her grandson and other family members to enter the house through the backyard, because the front doorbell is broken and she and her husband, who is in a wheelchair, have limited mobility. Thompson said guests often knock on the back window and ask her to use an automatic opener to raise the garage door and let them in.
She said her husband called the police to report the shots.
Law enforcement officials interviewed Thompson for several hours about what she had heard that night but did not tell her about her Clark, she said. Thompson said she only found out her grandson had been shot when she decided to peek out a window and saw his body in the backyard.
“I opened that curtain and he was dead," Thompson said. "I started screaming.”
On Monday, officials said Clark used the toolbar to break a sliding glass door one house away from where he was shot and that they believe Clark shattered the windows of at least three nearby vehicles.
Police said Clark ran away from the officers toward the back of the property, where officers said he turned and moved toward them while holding an object in his hands.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been with the department for two and four years, officials said. The officers were not injured in the incident and have been put on paid administrative leave.
The department announced that video and audio footage associated with the occurrence will be released to the public within 30 days.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he supported the investigation and the department's "intent to expedite the release of all relevant video," The Sacremento Bee reported.
"I am always sorry when someone loses their young life," the mayor said. "I am also grateful that the officers were unharmed."
A GoFundMe page to fund Clark's funeral expenses was created Monday afternoon. Clark's brother, Stevante, told The Bee the family is trying to come up with enough money to bury his younger brother next to another brother killed a few years ago, also by gun violence.
"He would not want for us to be sad but to come together," Clark said. "He was a good person. He always had jokes for everybody."
Clark is the latest black person to be unfairly targeted by the police. More than 1,000 people have been killed by the police nationwide in 2017 — according to Mapping Police Violence, a research initiative on police killings nationwide — but 25 percent of those killed by the police were black, despite black people only making up 13 percent of the population. The data also shows that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, and that 30 percent of black victims were unarmed in 2015 compared to 21 percent of white victims.
Images and video shared through social media have led to nationwide outrage and protests over questionable behavior and practices by American policing, united by the rallying cry "Black Lives Matter."