Ten days after Sacramento police officers shot and killed an unarmed black man in his own backyard -- after allegedly mistaking a cellphone for a gun -- the city still roils with tension, as protests continue and the California Department of Justice begins its own probe into the fatal shooting.
A Sacramento City Council meeting designed to address the slaying of Stephon Clark was disrupted Tuesday night by protesters, who were led by Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark.
Stephon Clark, 22, was killed March 18 when two officers responding to a vandalism report in his neighborhood fired 20 bullets at him as he stood on the back patio of his grandparents’ home, where he was staying. The officers chased Clark after a Sacramento County deputy in a helicopter overhead said he saw him break a neighbor’s sliding glass door.
The fatal shooting and its immediate aftermath were caught on infrared camera from the helicopter and body camera footage from the officers, who have been placed on administrative leave.
Stevante Clark is seen in footage from Tuesday’s meeting bursting into the room, chanting his brother’s name. He runs up to the dais and jumps up on it, directly in front of a startled Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, turns around and leads the crowd in the chant.
“Louder! Louder!” Clark shouts to the crowd as they chant.
Footage shot by CBS 13 in Sacramento shows Stevante Clark, wearing a sweatshirt with his brother’s image on it, pacing in front of the dais, at which point Steinberg offers him a microphone.
“Do you want to take the microphone, sir?” Steinberg asks.
“Yes,” Stevante Clark said.
“That one over there. Go right there,” the mayor says.
See footage of Stevante Clark interrupting the meeting and speaking to those present below. Warning: Some of the language in the video is explicit.
An exhausted-looking Clark addresses those present in the council chamber, begging them to quiet down so he can speak.
“The mayor and the city of Sacramento has failed all of you,” Clark says in the footage, gesturing to those around him.
He points to gang violence, high rent and uncontrolled poverty as some of the ways the city has failed its people.
“Calvary Christian Center looks like a castle, but look where it’s in -- Sodom and Gomorrah,” Clark says. “If you live in the (Del Paso) Heights, your car insurance is higher than anybody in Sacramento. Trust me; I’ve got AAA baby, I know.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that when Steinberg tried to talk to him at one point, a distraught Clark told the mayor, “Shut the (expletive) up.”
Steinberg called a 15-minute recess to the meeting, the Bee reported.
When the meeting resumed, the mayor and council heard hours of comments from residents, who described decades of racism by police officers and a lack of action by public officials.
“This city is killing us,” Malaki Seku-Amen, founder of the California Urban Partnership, told the council, according to the newspaper.
Tanya Faison, of the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter, demanded that the officers who shot Stephon Clark be fired.
“What you saw today was the truth,” Faison said. “You’re killing us. It feels like genocide.”
At one point, attendees stood and pointed their cellphones at the mayor and council members.
“Does this look, as you point this to our council, does this look like a gun?” one man in the crowd asked.
The council ultimately adjourned the meeting more than two hours early because Steinberg said he could not ensure the safety of everyone there, CBS 13 reported. A continuation set for Wednesday was also postponed because it would conflict with Stephon Clark’s wake.
Clark’s funeral is set for Thursday in Sacramento. The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to deliver his eulogy.
Footage shot by the Bee, seen above, shows portions of the meeting prior to the disruption, including when Steinberg calls for a moment of silent prayer in Stephon Clark’s memory and for the community.
“Among the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history has been the perception -- and too often, reality -- that for people and communities of color, the legal and political system is unjust,” Steinberg says during the meeting. “That people and communities of color are not heard, and that the way it is, is in fact the way it will always be.”
“In the days, weeks and months ahead, you will be heard. And we will be listening,” Steinberg tells the crowd, which is largely made up of people of color.
The mayor then acknowledges that the community is hurting, grieving and traumatized by the police shooting. The next images in the footage shared by the Bee are of Stevante Clark approaching the dais.
The Bee reported that protesters outside the building also chanted Stephon Clark’s name and pounded on the windows of the council chamber. Some taunted police officers in helmets who stood in the lobby, blocking the doors to the council chamber.
Pastors and activists among the crowd called for calm.
“We are better than this,” Rashid Sidqe told the protesters, according to the Bee.
Protesters also gathered Tuesday evening outside Golden 1 Center, the home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Footage shows hundreds of people milling about outside and chanting Stephon Clark’s name.
The protest at the Kings game was the second since Thursday. Both times, protesters blocked entrances into the arena, preventing many ticket holders from seeing the game.
Stadium officials estimated about 4,000 fans made it inside for Tuesday’s game. The arena holds more than 17,000 people, the Bee reported.
Players for the Kings and the Boston Celtics on Sunday made a statement in support of Clark’s family by warming up in T-shirts bearing his name. The front of the shirts read, “Accountability. We are one.”
The back read, “#StephonClark.”
The players also put together a public service announcement promoting unity, even while seeking change.
CBS News reported that the idea for the shirts came from a Kings player development staff member, Akachi Okugo, and Kings guard Garrett Temple helped bring it to fruition.
Temple has been outspoken about police accountability.
“It’s probably the toughest job in America, and I applaud them for putting their lives on the line every night, every day,” Temple told CBS News. “But with that comes responsibility. That’s the mantle that they carry and the burden that they bear.”
Tuesday’s protest at the council meeting and the arena follow similar gatherings that took place last week, the Bee reported. Friday’s protests and a candlelight vigil devolved into confrontations between some protesters, police officers and passersby.
Stephon Clark’s family, friends and protesters question why the officers fired so many shots at Clark, who leaves behind two small sons. They also question why officers waited about five minutes before approaching his motionless body to attempt to render aid.
Sacramento police officials announced Tuesday that the California Department of Justice has been asked to step in and assist in the investigation of the shooting.
“We appreciate the help from the California Department of Justice,” Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “This partnership will provide an additional oversight and assist our agency with providing a thorough and comprehensive investigation of this incident.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who described his office’s probe as independent oversight, pledged to provide a fair and impartial investigation. He said the state Justice Department would also evaluate law enforcement policies, procedures and practices to find ways to achieve safer outcomes than the one that ended with Clark dead.
“We take on this responsibility in full recognition of the importance of getting it right, because there is nothing more important than respect and trust between law enforcement and the communities that they are sworn to protect as we work to keep all Californians safe,” Becerra said.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.