The neighbor whose 911 call led to the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark has called the Sacramento man an “innocent person” and said he never wanted to call 911 again.
Dave Reiling, who lives across the street from Clark’s grandparents, voiced his regret in an interview Monday with the Sacramento Bee. Clark, 23, was shot eight times -- including six times in the back -- March 18 by officers searching for the person who broke into Reiling’s truck.
Clark was staying at his grandparents’ house at the time of his death.
The officers said they fired a total of 20 shots at Clark because they believed he had a gun in his hand as he stood on his grandparents’ back patio. All that was found with Clark’s body was a cellphone.
“It makes you never want to call 911 again,” Reiling told the Bee. “They shot an innocent person.”
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in the days following Clark’s slaying that he believed Clark was the person responsible for breaking the windows of Reiling’s truck, as well as breaking other vehicle windows and the sliding glass door of a neighbor’s home, but that he couldn’t “say factually it was him yet.”
Reiling told the Bee he could not say if Clark was the man he saw, either. He could not make out the facial features of the man, who was wearing a dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt.
Clark was wearing a dark hoodie when he was killed.
Though he did not know Clark well, Reiling said he’d seen the young father of two boys a few times when Clark visited his grandparents. Reiling, a mechanic, said he knew other members of Clark’s family as well, having repaired their cars on occasion.
Reiling said that he was watching TV in his trailer when he heard loud noises from outside. When he went out, he saw broken windows on both of his trucks parked nearby.
The man in the sweatshirt was standing next to the driver’s side of one of the trucks, looking at him, he said.
“I got my ball bat and started chasing him down the street,” Reiling told the newspaper.
When the man ran into a neighbor’s backyard, Reiling dialed 911.
In audio of that call released last month, along with body camera and helicopter videos that capture the shooting, Reiling tells the dispatcher about the man breaking windows of vehicles in the neighborhood.
“What did he use to break the windows?” the dispatcher asks.
“I have no idea,” Reiling responds. “I heard the noise and I came outside and he was standing right there on the side of my truck, and I grabbed my ball bat … (unintelligible) … I didn’t hit him, or nothing like that.”
Reiling tells the dispatcher that the man is now in another yard, trying to get over a fence, but that he is trapped because of a neighbor’s dogs.
The dispatcher asks for a description of the man, and Reiling tells her he could not determine the man’s race because of the hoodie he was wearing. The suspect was also wearing pants that appeared to have white stripes or dots on them, he says.
Clark was wearing dark pants with white stripes down the legs, according to the body camera footage. The footage was recorded as the two officers involved in the shooting approached and handcuffed his motionless body more than five minutes after the gunfire ended.
The officers, as well as fellow officers who provided backup, have been criticized for waiting so long to render medical aid. A coroner who performed an independent autopsy at Clark’s family’s request determined that it took three to 10 minutes for him to die of his wounds.
The helicopter’s infrared footage shows a figure climbing over a fence into Clark’s grandparents’ yard moments after a deputy in the aircraft said the man below shattered a glass door of a home. That crime was not apparent in the video released by police officials.
The figure walks up to a vehicle outside the grandparents’ home and looks in the window. That is where Clark was standing when the officers who shot him spotted him and chased him into the backyard.
“Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Stop!” one officer screams at Clark when he spots him. He runs after Clark, who is heading around the corner, toward the patio.
As the officer rounds the corner, he again screams, “Show me your hands!” and, “Gun!” before pushing his partner back.
As both officers huddle at the corner of the house, the same officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!”
They then both open fire.
See the body camera footage of Clark’s shooting below. Warning: The videos contain violence and explicit language.
Reiling told the Bee that he’s seen the footage released by police.
“They shot somebody back there, Stephon, for a cellphone,” he said.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is under investigation. They have not been formally identified by police officials.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the state’s Department of Justice have stepped in to provide oversight of the investigation into Clark’s shooting. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office is also investigating the officers’ actions.
The shooting has led to large-scale protests across Sacramento and beyond.
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