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Stephon Clark Shooting: Police Power Gone Awry?

By Samuel Abels

Imagine for a moment: a father, a son, a grandson, 22-years-old, and gunned down in his own backyard. As a loved one, and as a human being, you would be seeking answers, justice for the killers of the one you held close for all the years that you knew them, for all the years they walked this planet.

That is the story of Stephon Clark.

It was the night of March 18 in Sacramento, CA, and two officers of the Sacramento Police Department responded to reports of an African American man in a hoodie breaking car windows. The suspect fled on foot from law enforcement, appearing to head into a yard. During their pursuit of the suspect, the officers encountered 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who proceeded to run from officers, according to since released police footage of the chase.

The officers claim they saw Clark holding up an item which appeared to be a weapon. “Gun, gun, gun,” one of the officers shouted, before, along with his partner, emptying 20 shots within range of the suspect, and striking him a total of eight times, hitting him seven of those times in the upper torso, and once in the leg.

According to an independent autopsy requested by the Clark family, the leg wound was achieved when Clark initially fell down.

The police department, a day after the shooting, commented that the deceased suspect showed what appeared to be a “toolbar” in his hand. The same day, the police revised their statement to say he did not have a toolbar, nor did he have a gun like previously suspected. Instead, the object turned out to be nothing more than a cellular phone.

At this time, the Sacramento Police Department  believes Clark was the man breaking car windows, and that he managed to break a sliding glass door next door to the residence where he was confronted.

The tragic event has since sparked a multitude of protests, including a response from both the Boston Celtics and the Sacramento Kings, where both NBA teams wore shirts that read, “We are one” and “Accountability” during both warm-ups and the “National Anthem.”

Law enforcement is supposed to protect the citizens it claims to serve. Consider what happened: the officers believed he was responsible for breaking the windows of vehicles, and the response was to shoot at him up to 20 times. This might or might not be an issue of race, but it certainly warrants inquiry into police procedure and their overall vetting process.

We as a society should feel safe and secure with our men and women in uniform, not become concerned with potentially falling victim to an impulsive trigger-happy happy officer prone to knee-jerk, heated reactions in the line of duty.


2 Comments on Stephon Clark Shooting: Police Power Gone Awry?

  1. Another in a very long list. Black lives should matter


  2. Scott Turner // April 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm // Reply

    The key facts: police pursuing suspect, police find suspect, police perceive a threat to their lives, police respond to the threat with deadly force. Legally, if police mistake a cell phone for a gun and shoot – no harm-no foul (just cold hard reality that cannot be undone or fixed). The initial shooting looks like it was within the boundaries of the law. Since 20 shots were fired, the next question becomes whether all 20 shots were within the boundaries of the law.

    With more than one police shooter in the heat of the moment, in a combat situation, probably, most likely, hard to dispute. Still a fair question though.

    Solution: do not follow the advice of activists to ignore, confront, or walk away from the police when instructed by police to stop. Police issue commands based upon legal standards that grant them the authority to order person to stop and allow temporary detention without arrest.
    Everyone in society is bound by those orders. If activists want to solve the problem, they would never suggest to anyone to ignore, confront, or walk away from police after being ordered to stop. The fight is for another day in a different forum not on the side of the road.

    The lesson learned, whether innocent or guilty, in your own yard or the interstate, failing to obey a lawful order from police may be a crime, but more importantly, it may escalate to the use of deadly force. Be smart, not emotional, even if guilty of a crime. I can think of no bigger threat to the life of an officer than during the moments that a person ignores an order to stop, turns away from police, then walks away. It is an incredibly dangerous period for the officer – no time, no space – for an officer to respond to an escalation or threat.

    Still a sad story! Sad for the officers – sad for the family – sad for the 22 year old man who may have changed the world someday if he lived long enough, but now he won’t because of a single decision made in haste or fear or masculinity.


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