Unarmed black man shot to death in own backyard after police mistake cell phone for weapon
Sacramento police fatally shot a 22-year-old black man holding a cell phone that was mistaken for a weapon.
Stephon Clark was in the backyard of the home he shared with his grandparents and some of his siblings when he was killed, Clark’s brother told the Sacramento Bee.
The police department said officers were responding to a report that someone was breaking car windows nearby.
The suspect was described as a six-foot-one man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants hiding in a backyard.
Deputies told police that that the suspect had used a “toolbar” to break another home’s window.
Deputies in a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter spotted Clark in a backyard, and told deputies that he had shattered a window with a tool bar.
Deputies instructed officers on the ground to the man’s location.
Police approached Clark, who they initially believed was armed with a gun, though no firearm was recovered from the scene, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Police said Clark held an “object” that he “extended in front of him” as he approached two officers.
“The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them. Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times,” the police department said in a release. Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said Monday that the only item found near Clark’s body was a cell phone.
Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, said she was home when gunshots rang out.
“The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground.” she told the Sacramento Bee.
She said that neither she nor her husband heard police issue commands before hearing gunfire.
Thompson said she was interviewed for several hours before police told her that Clark had been shot.
“I opened that curtain and he was dead,” she said. “I started screaming.”
The two officers involved in the shooting were wearing body cameras. The department plans on releasing footage from the cameras along with video and audio from the law enforcement helicopter.
Both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave.