The death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man shot and killed by police on March 18 in the backyard of his grandparents’ Meadowview home, has prompted intense scrutiny of the Sacramento Police Department. ABC 10 has been inundated with questions and comments about Clark’s death. Although the investigation is still open and not all questions can yet be answered, here we attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Stephon Clark and the night of his death.
1. Why did the officers fire 20 times?
The investigation of Stephon Clark’s death will address number of rounds fired, so that question hasn’t been answered yet, according to Police Chief Daniel Hahn. The Sac PD said its officers are trained in the use of firearms, but did not specifically address protocol around how many rounds should be fired in any given situation.
2. Why did the officers mute their cameras several minutes after the shooting?
Police officials are still reviewing the decision to mute the cameras, and the answer to that question will very likely come before the conclusion of the death investigation, as it is an administrative matter.
According to city policy, officers must activate their body cameras during various encounters with the public, including foot pursuits of a suspect, as happened in this case. Officers have the discretion to turn off the camera in various circumstances, including tactical or confidential discussions, if ‘a recording would interfere with his or her ability to conduct an investigation’ or ‘if it is necessary to discuss issues or concerns with an employee, supervisor, doctor, nurse or paramedic in private.’
As the department has only been using body cameras for about a year, the policy is new and subject to revision as need arises.
3. Why didn’t the police helicopter use its spotlight so officers would have a better view of the suspect (and therefore be better able to see what he held in his hands)?
The police helicopter is equipped with an infrared camera, which has a different level of clarity for the observer in the air. The infrared technology is what allows human bodies to stand out in bright white against the ground in the video.
4. Why do we only see three minutes of helicopter video, while the body camera video runs for 17 minutes? Why don’t we see him breaking windows, as the helicopter officers reported?
Officers in the helicopter started recording just after the sliding glass window was broken, according to the Sacramento Police Department. They don’t routinely record while in flight.
Here's the released video from the SPD:
5. Why didn’t the officers identify themselves as such?
They were in the full police uniform, and with a helicopter circling overhead, the dynamic was such that it should have been obvious who they were and why they were pursuing him, according to the Sacramento Police Department.
6. Were cars and/or houses broken into that night?
A least three vehicles were broken into, and a sliding glass door of a house next door was smashed. A cinder block and the downspout to a rain gutter found in the yard are being examined as the most likely objects used to break the glass.
7. Was anyone else arrested for those burglaries?
Some viewers commented that another person had turned himself in for the burglaries that night, but that is just a rumor, according to the Sacramento Police Department.
8. Was Clark a convicted felon or parolee?
Clark had two felony domestic violence counts, a 2013 charge for firearms and narcotics violations and a 2008 robbery charge.
9. Is the department going to make changes to training and/or protocol to reduce unnecessary casualties?
The Sacramento Police Department constantly reevaluates its policies to better protect and serve city residents.
“Any time there’s a loss of life it’s tragic, obviously,” said Det. Edward MacCauly, an information officer for the department.
10. Why does ABC 10 use the language ‘fatally shot’ or ‘shot to death’ instead of ‘murder’?
Murder is a legal designation determined by a judge or jury. It would be unethical for a journalist to claim the special knowledge of the facts of a case that has yet to be investigated and adjudicated.
11. Has a fund for his children been started?
We did not find a fund specifically for his children, but this gofundme was set up to pay for funeral expenses.
The goal of $80,000 had been reached. A note on the site said funds exceeding what is needed to bury Stephon ‘will go to the family.’
12. What is the race of the officers involved in the shooting?
One is white, one is black.