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.

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Black and unarmed: Men killed by police without a weapon
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Black and unarmed: Men killed by police without a weapon

Michael Brown

The 18-year-old was shot and killed by Ferguson Police on August 9, 2014, on his way to his grandmother's house.

Eric Garner

Father of six, Garner died on Thursday, July 17, 2014, after NYPD officers put him in a "choke hold" in front of passerbys in broad daylight.

Trayvon Martin

Martin was shot and killed as he walked through a gated neighborhood, where he was visiting family in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. 

Ramarley Graham

Officer Richard Haste shot and killed 18-year-old Graham on February 2, 2012 in the bathroom of his grandmother’s home in Bronx, N.Y.

Patrick Dorismond

The 26-year-old was shot on March 16, 2000, during a confrontation with undercover NYPD officers who asked him about where they could purchase drugs.

Oscar J. Grant III

Officer Johannes Mehserle said he accidentally used his gun when he was reaching for a taser after shooting Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

Steven Eugene Washington

Washington was shot and killed by gang-enforcement officers Allan Corrales and George Diego on Mar. 10, 2010 in Los Angeles after the autistic teen began approaching them and appeared to remove something from his waistband.

Travares McGill

McGill died July 16, 2005, in the same county in which Travyon Martin was killed, after being shot by two security guards.

Ousmane Zongo

Zongo was confronted and killed by Officer Bryan A. Conroy during a raid on a counterfeit-CD ring in New York City, of which he had no involvement, on May 22, 2003.

Ronald Madison and James Brissette

Following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, five officers opened fire on an unarmed family on Danziger Bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette. The officers would go on to shoot at two brothers, killing Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental disabilities.

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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.

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