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Family releases Stephon Clark autopsy results

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 3/30/18, 03:18 pm

UPDATE: An autopsy commissioned by the family of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed March 18 by police in Sacramento, Calif., showed he had five gunshot wounds in his back, one in the back of his neck, and one in his side. Pathologist Bennet Omalu said at a news conference Friday that any one of those wounds would have been fatal, and death would have taken three to 10 minutes. Clark also had a gunshot wound to the thigh that Omalu said occurred as he fell or lay on the ground. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the family, said the findings showed Clark was not a threat to the police at the time he was killed. Officials with the city of Sacramento have not commented on the outside autopsy nor released results from the coroner’s postmortem examination.

OUR EARLIER REPORT (11:58 a.m.): Protests calling for police reforms after the death of Stephon Clark persisted Thursday but remained peaceful in Sacramento, Calif. Clark, 22, was shot by police on March 18. Officers were pursuing a vandalism suspect in the neighborhood when they stopped Clark, who was unarmed, at his grandmother’s back door. They fired 20 shots at him thinking he had a gun but later discovered he was holding a cellphone instead. Clark’s brother, 25-year-old Stevante Clark, has emerged as a leader of the protests. At a Tuesday night Sacramento City Council meeting, he stormed the dais and led protesters in chanting his brother’s name. He also told Mayor Darrell Steinberg to shut up and yelled obscenities. In a television interview the next day, Stevante Clark apologized for his behavior: “I couldn’t imagine someone disrespecting me like that in front of my family. He’s a grown man. He deserves respect.” Clark also called on protesters not to block fans from entering the Sacramento Kings basketball game for a third time on Thursday night. At his brothers crowded funeral Thursday, Clark came forward and hugged and kissed the casket and began another chant of his brother’s name. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy, told the crowd not to judge how families grieve: “This brother could be any one of us, so let them express and grieve.” On Thursday, Mayor Steinberg told PBS News Hour that the city would not rush to judgment about whether the officers who shot Clark followed department policy, “but it’s a whole another thing to ask whether the protocols and the trainings themselves need to be corrected. And we’re going to be very, very aggressive about this, because, regardless of whether or not there … will be legal culpability here, the outcome was just plain wrong.” Attorney Benjamin Crump said the Clark family plans to release the results of an independent autopsy of Stephon Clark’s body on Friday.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 03/30/2018 02:27 pm

    Autopsy?  I can do one from a distance of 1800 miles. The perp had 20 holes in him, which led to his death. He acquired those holes because his family, and the culture he was raised in, did not teach him to live a law-abiding life and respect authority. 

    Harsh?  Yes!  

    Part of this Nation’s problem is that we have decided the feelings of problem people are more important than trying to be sure our young people learn what correct behavior consists of. 

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 03/30/2018 04:51 pm


    I agree that our modern culture does not generally teach respect the way it used to, and I believe that may be contributing to some of the violence we are seeing now. However, it seems to me that the lack of respect applies across the board. I come from a different culture from the man who was shot, but there was abuse in my family as well as a certain disrespect for authority. Even in the overall culture certain illegal things were generally accepted as long as you didn’t get caught.

    Very few people would survive 20 bullet holes. The question is whether this amount of force was justified given the perceived threat. I’m not sure anyone’s family or culture justifies having them shot 20 times. Also, assuming this report holds up, I can’t imagine anyone being perceived as a threat while they are being shot in the back. 

    I may be in the minority here, but I think respect goes both ways. It is certainly important to respect authorities like law enforcement, and they have an extremely difficult job. AND it’s very hard to respect an authority if you are terrified that authority may target you and kill you for no reason other than your skin color. (Whether or not this has been the case in specific instances, it is a fear many people have.) World readers of all people should understand because sometimes we feel targeted by the media for being Christians, and we often get angry about this. Imagine if we feared for our lives.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 03/31/2018 02:11 am

    Would you say that to a family whose child got killed running into the road? How do you even know how his family raised him? Are you saying that the feelings of grieving families aren't worth our sympathy if they're "problem people"? Because it sure sounds like it.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 03/31/2018 01:50 am

    May I please make a couple of comments on what might be termed “technical aspects” of this shooting. 

    The two officers were pursuing someone who had broken into a car and was seen doing so by officers in a helicopter. During the perpetrator’s flight, he apparently attempted to break into a home. The reasons may not be known, but possibly he realized the helicopter was covering him and he was attempting to find a hiding place. After this he fled to his Grandmother’s home, where he was seen by the two officers who were searching on foot. 

    These officers attempted to stop the fleeing person in the front yard but he ran into the back yard and seemed to be attempting to get in the house. 

    It’s important to remember that these two officers in all likelihood did not know the identity of the man they were pursuing and would not have known his own family occupied the home. 

    Also, this man was holding something in his hand the officers thought was a firearm. 

    With this man now cornered in the backyard, the officers now believe they are facing not merely danger to themselves from a possibly armed fugitive, but danger to whoever occupies the home the fugitive is trying to enter. 

    Police, when trained to use arms to defend against an armed criminal, are trained to shoot until the threat ceases to exist. That generally means keep shooting until the criminal is not moving. Too many police have been shot by a criminal dying from gunshot wounds but with still enough strength and resolve to get off one more shot at the officer. ln the situation under discussion, officers confront a person already believed to have been engaging in criminal activity, who has already disobeyed orders to stop, and who appears to be making hostile moves towards the officers (or someone else).  If the officers THINK they see a gun, the evidence already seen impels them to consider the person to be a deadly threat. 

    In this kind of situation, I do not believe an officer is taking time to weigh the seriousness of the initial offense for which the fugitive was pursued; nor evaluating whether the culture of the person threatening him deserves one shot, five, or empty the magazine. Neither is he stopping to yell, “Hey pal, is that a gun you have in your hand?”  I also believe it is simplistic to criticize the officer for “shooting the fugitive in the back.”  

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 03/31/2018 05:16 am

    Thanks for clarifying things a bit. I don’t think I knew all the details of the case. I certainly don’t condone robbery or disrespect or resisting authority. Still...perhaps I am misunderstanding, but it really sounds like you are saying this man deserved to be shot at least as much because of his family and the culture he came from as because of being perceived as a threat by law enforcement officers. (Based on this: “he acquired those holes because his family, and the culture he was raised in, did not teach him to live a law-abiding life...” and this: “whether the culture of the one threatening him deserves one shot, five, or empty the magazine.”) Also, I wasn’t there and I’m not in law enforcement, so I don’t know all the facts; but I personally think it’s VERY important that the suspect was shot in the back, particularly since there’s more than one wound like that. 

    This is not to offend but hopefully to help with understanding-and I think this illustrates a big reason why we have this kind of problem: because people in my culture don’t realize the fear African Americans have that people like me think they deserve to be shot just because of what they look like or that this fear is often based on very real experience with discrimination.  It’s not just that people from a certain culture need to be more respectful because very respectful and respectable African Americans have told me about being pulled over and harassed when they were doing NOTHING WRONG. To be honest, I’m PERSONALLY afraid that someone close to me will be shot if they are stopped by the wrong person just because they have the wrong skin color! I suspect a lot of people in law enforcement are anxious as well, and the tension is making everything worse. That’s why I think BOTH sides need to work on the issue.

  • VT
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 12:36 am

    Not silent, I don’t think anyone is saying that the police shot this man because of his skin color, or his culture. I think they’re saying that the police shot him, because they thought he was a threat, as OldMike said. Most people take a scene like this, where (I apologize if this is offensive) a white cop shoots a Hispanic or Black man, and turn it into something it’s not. They take a scene where there’s a perp who happens to be Hispanic or Black, and a cop, who happens to be white, who are involved in a chase. The perp appears to be armed and he is cornered. What would he do? He would most likely fire on the cops because he doesn’t want to go to jail. This is what the cops are thinking, so they fire first. The perp most likely won’t survive the event, and if he was a Hispanic man shot by a white man, the scene is turned into a ‘racist hate murder’. I think the cops acted logically, given the facts and circumstances. I’m not saying, however, that this man deserved to die, because he didn’t. I’m saying that the cops observed the facts, and acted on them in a short period of time. And the reason why it was a short period of time is because the cops think the man is armed, and if they don’t act quickly, they MIGHT be fired on.

  • not silent
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 02:58 pm

    Virginia, I realize that the suspect was perceived as a threat and that a number of circumstances led to that conclusion. I do not fault police for protecting themselves. If this were just a matter of whether it was okay for a white cop to shoot a black suspect when they consider that suspect a threat, I would not be involved; however, I think the concern is that suspects in general may be more likely to be perceived as a threat if they are black than if they are white, with all other factors being equal. That is why it needs to be addressed, at least in my view.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 08:20 pm

    Right. Normally I'm rather skeptical when people start talking about things like "unconscious bias", because that often ends up being quite the witch hunt, but in a split-second decision about whether to pull the trigger, any extra irrational sense of danger based on the race of the suspect could be the deciding factor in whether he lives or dies. Could be. I haven't seen any evidence to confirm whether this really is the case (it looks bad if you compare police shootings by total population but unsurprising if you compare police shootings by number of arrests), but I can see why it might be difficult to trust the police if you suspect they're going to automatically see you as a dangerous criminal. Looks like one city at least is getting some things right:

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 03/31/2018 02:47 am

    The officers clearly thought the man was a threat and acted accordingly. That, in itself, is in keeping with their job as police. However, in hindsight it's obvious that he was not a threat, so it's entirely appropriate to ask what (if anything) can be done for police to make better threat assessments in the future.

    And before you go off talking like he deserved it because he didn't listen to the police--yes, it's wrong and also risky not to cooperate with the police. But that doesn't mean he deserved to get shot. It may have been an unavoidable tragedy, but please remember that it was a tragedy regardless. I mean, I don't think most of you would be talking that way if your neighbor's kid got shot because police mistook his toy gun for a real one. Right?

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 12:35 am

    Stephon Clark was created in the image of God, as we all are. I am sorry I forgot that when I made my first comment. His death IS  a tragedy, and I apologize for the harshness of the comments I made at the beginning. 

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 10:20 am

    Thank you, sir. God bless.

  • not silent
    Posted: Sun, 04/01/2018 02:10 pm

    Thanks, Old Mike. You set an excellent example for all of us. May God give us wisdom for the difficult issues we are facing these days.