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Family speaks out in Sacramento police shooting

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 3/27/18, 11:26 am

Sequita Thompson, the grandmother of a man killed last week by Sacramento, Calif., police, lamented her loss and called for police reforms Monday. Stephon Clark, 22, was unarmed in Thompson’s backyard on March 18 when police in pursuit of a fleeing vandalism suspect came upon him. Thinking he had a gun, they shot at him 20 times. He had only a cellphone in his possession. Members of the Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics on Sunday wore black warmup shirts with Clark’s name on them before their NBA game in Sacramento. Three days earlier, protesters formed a human chain blocking entrances to the Kings’ arena and prevented all but about 1,500 fans from entering. At a news conference Monday, Thompson said through sobs that police didn’t have to shoot Clark 20 times. “Why didn’t they just shoot him in the arm, shoot him in the leg? Send a dog? Send a Taser? Why?” she asked. The NAACP has called for criminal charges against the officers involved, though charges against police in such cases are rare and convictions even rarer. Officers can use lethal force if they reasonably fear for their safety, and in video released last week, they can be heard yelling to each other that Clark had a gun. They are also trained to continue firing until they believe the threat is eliminated. Sacramento police spokesman Detective Eddie Macaulay said the department continues to investigate the case: “We’re always open to the conversation about how we can do things differently or better and this case is no different.”

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital's managing editor. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Lynde resides with her family in Wichita, Kansas. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 12:44 pm

    He had a cell phone.  Who first called out that he had a gun?  Did he point his phone in a menacing way, for crying out loud??  I'm sorry for these officers that they are so scared of a black man that they needed to continue shooting 20 times until the "threat was eliminated."  They should stand down and take a desk job for the remainder of their careers.  I'm more in sorrow for Stephon's family to have to live with his tragic death and loss every day for the remainder of their lives.

  • ChetB
    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 04:10 pm

    I'm not writing this to either support or condemn either the officers or the man shot, but this article leaves out context. For instance, it states, "Stephon Clark, 22, was unarmed in Thompson’s backyard on March 18 when police in pursuit of a fleeing vandalism suspect came upon him. Thinking he had a gun, they shot him 20 times." When I read this, I envisioned that Mr. Clark was standing in his back yard, perhaps working or cooking, when officers came in, panicked at seeing someone, and then shot before realizing that he wasn't the suspect.

    However, this sentence does not state that Mr. Clark WAS the "fleeing vandalism suspect" based on police helicopter surveillance, and had already allegedly ran through at least one person's backyard. The sentence — and the entire article — also doesn't state that the police helicopter allegedy saw Mr. Clark smash someone else's backdoor and car windows with a crow bar. (I might misremember some of those details.) Based on those details, then, officers did not stumble upon him in his own back yard. They chased him there after he allegedly resisted arrest.

    The article also states that, "He had only a cellphone in his possession." Other accounts, though, say he approached the officers while holding an object in a threatening manner. Of course, people can interpret "threatening" differently, but the sentence in this account does not state that he held out the cell phone in anyway.

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 07:32 pm

    Perhaps World should SIFT a little less on these types of articles and flesh out the context a bit more before releasing.  I do like their "just the facts" news clips; this one apparently needed more depth.  I suppose the onus is on me to get out and read other media, but I frankly don't want opinion pieces ... I want news.  Unfortunately, that's not easy to come by.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 05:07 pm

    Google the media coverage of this shooting—it is very biased against the officers. Fact is, this young man was no angel—felony and domestic violence record—AND he was believed by the pursuing officers to be person who had just broken into a car and a home. As ChetB says, he was not “found by the officers in his grandmother’s back yard,” he ran there with the police in pursuit. 

    As for family, media, and protestors insistence that the officers should have hesitated to shoot, or shot to wound, officers who do that often end up being killed by the person they were hesitant to shoot. Put yourselves in the shoes of a police officer’s spouse: a great many of them live with the constant dread that their loved one will someday not make it home at the end of the shift. 

    Here’s the big problem with so much anger at police shootings: people do not want to see that the “victim” in most cases did something to make officers believe they were in mortal danger. Reaching behind them, fleeing then turning toward officers, refusing to show their hands, just the fact of involvement in criminal activity when spotted by officers. All of these appear to officers to be immediately dangerous situations. Officers are trained to respond to these things in a way that increases their survival odds. Does any responsible citizen seriously want officers sacrificing their lives by giving the wrong person the benefit of the doubt?

    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 09:05 pm

    I agree that police should not wait until they are fired upon. Do the parents of criminals teach their children to only shoot officers in the leg? Or maybe parents should take their son's gun away and give him a Taser. It works both ways. There are many officers who are putting their lives on the line and when a black person shoots one, they are praised on the internet. Even Obama praised the shooting of officers. That is just sick! Officers belong to families too. Their lives are worth just as much as anyone’s.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Tue, 03/27/2018 09:50 pm

    I highly doubt that Pres. Obama "praised" the shooting of police officers.  Please provide proof.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 03/28/2018 01:44 pm

    The Sacramento Bee published aerial and body camera recordings of the tragedy.  These provide a lot of information that is not in the summary above.

    After watching both videos and doing some general research, I have the following thoughts:

    1.  Shooting anything other than center mass is out of the question.  Arms and legs are too small and move too quickly, even when the target is just walking.  Real life makes this even tougher.  Even if the shooter hits a limb, the subject may still be limber enough to fight back.

    2.  Tasers are not a panacea.  NBC News published an interesting analysis of gun and taser use.  Tasers have a limited range, and at 50,000 volts, can still kill or permanently damage the subject.  They also do not always function correctly.

    3.  The incident happened at night, in poor lighting.  Only Monday morning quarterbacks can instantaneously tell the difference between a cell phone and a gun under those conditions.  Mr. Clark first ran from two officers, then moved toward them when they cornered him.  That would have been foolish enough in daylight. It was doubly so at night.

    4.  It is clear from the dialog in the body cam recording that the officers thought that he was a threat to them.  They also thought that he may still have been alive after shooting him and called out to him to offer help.

    There is no way that I personally can fault the officers, unless there is some procedural glitch of which I am ignorant.  Mr. Clark would be alive today if he had frozen in place and followed the officers' instructions.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 03/28/2018 05:20 pm

    Mr. Bossard, I agree 100%. 

    Unfortunately, many whose first and only reaction is “blame the always-evil police, defend the always-innocent minority victim” will still shout and protest loudly enough to cause police to change their policies for the worse; will still cause these officers and their families to be vilified; will still embolden those whose lifestyle embraces defiance of authority.

    In reaction to this kind of thinking, a couple of years ago I bought, and placed on my pickup, stickers saying “I support Law Enforcement.”  I encourage others to do the same.  Police need to see evidence they are not standing alone. 

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 03/29/2018 09:32 am

    Yes, police officers should be able to protect themselves. They have a very dangerous and necessary job, and we should all be thankful to them for doing it. But please don't forget that this was a tragedy. A young man died last week, and his family misses him very much. Yes, he broke the law, but vandalism is not generally considered to be a capital offense. And sometimes people do dumb things when they're scared. So let's not put too much blame on him for what happened either. And I think it's entirely appropriate to at least ask if there's any way we can have this kind of thing happen less often without putting the officers' lives in further danger.