A Black Man Was Fatally Shot In His Own Backyard By Police Who Thought His Cellphone Was A Weapon

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On Sunday, police officers responding to to reports of an individual breaking windows in a South Sacramento neighborhood fatally shot Stephon Clark in the backyard of a home when it was thought he was raising a weapon. As the Sacramento Police Department’s own statement and the New York Times have since indicated, however, the 22-year-old African-American man was not pointing what officers initially believed to be a gun towards them, but was actually raising his hands above his head — one of which was holding a cellphone. What’s more, Clark was killed in the backyard of his family’s own home.

Sacramento police indicated that footage from officers’ body cameras and a local sheriff’s department helicopter are being consulted in the department’s ongoing investigation into the shooting. Said footage will then be released to the public within 30 days’ time. As for the initial tip that lead to Clark’s shooting, a previous police statement revealed that someone had seen an individual in dark clothing “hiding in a backyard” after breaking several vehicle windows in the area. Soon after it arrived on the scene, the helicopter told ground units they had spotted someone who had “picked up a toolbar and broke a window to a residence.”

According to the police, “the suspect turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him,” and “[f]earing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times.” What the sheriff’s helicopter originally thought was a “toolbar” and officers on the ground perceived as a “gun,” however, turned out to be Clark’s cellphone. The two officers who fired on him went through “10 rounds each” before they finally stopped. Clark was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

(Via New York Times)