Police say they saw an object in Stephon Clark’s hand before they fired 20 bullets that killed him in his back yard Sunday night in Sacramento, a disturbing moment that was made public through body camera footage released Wednesday night.
The two officers were responding to a 911 call about a man breaking vehicle windows when they encountered, then killed, Clark, an unarmed black man.
Video released by the Sacramento Police Department depicts a frantic foot pursuit through darkened streets pierced by white slivers of police flashlight.
The officers spot Clark approaching a house and shout: “Show me your hands! Stop! Stop!”
Clark is seen running, and the two officers round the corner of the house and find him under a covered patio.
An infrared camera on an overhead helicopter briefly loses sight of Clark.
“Show me your hands! Gun!” an officer shouts and ducks behind the wall in a fraction of a second.
The helicopter footage shows one of the officers appearing to grab his partner to pull him to cover.
Clark steps toward the officers. Behind the wall, one of the officers issues another command. “Show me your hands!” And then: “Gun, gun, gun!”
Both officers open fire. Sparks from the bullets light up the helicopter’s infrared camera in sharp white pops.
The sequence, from the first glimpse of Clark on the patio to the first gunshot, unfolds in about six seconds.
The officers are never heard identifying themselves as police before fatally shooting Clark.
The gun officers thought Clark had in his hand was actually a white iPhone.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own back yard?” his grandmother, Sequita Thompson, told the Sacramento Bee. “C’mon, now, they didn’t have to do that.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has spoken with Clark’s mother and plans to travel to California to meet with the family, said in a statement: “It is an atrocity that an unarmed young man was shot at 20 times in his own backyard and shows the urgent need in these times for intervention against police misconduct.”
Sharpton added: “We will call for a complete and thorough investigation into this young man’s death.”
The Sacramento Police Department said the man they believed was breaking windows was the same man the officers killed in a hail of gunfire, identified by the 911 caller as a thin 6-foot male wearing a black hoodie and dark pants.
Her grandson was short, not 6 feet, she said in a video produced by the Bee. She believes another suspect was smashing windows, and that Clark was in the back yard at the wrong time.
Their doorbell is broken, and relatives often tap on the back window for someone to open the garage door, the family told the newspaper. Clark was staying at his grandmother’s home at the time he was killed.