Stephon Clark: Did Police Fire Too Many Rounds?
Stephon Clark, 22, was fatally shot by two Sacramento, Ca. police officers.
The officers fired twenty rounds during the incident. Of the twenty rounds, eight struck Clark—three in the lower back, twice near his right shoulder, once in his neck, once under an armpit, and one round in a leg. The round to the neck came from the side, while the shot to the leg hit Clark in the front. The doctor who performed the autopsy (an independent autopsy requested by the family) stated the leg wound appeared to have been fired after Clark was already falling to the ground.
Clark was unarmed. A cell phone, the object officers thought was a gun, was found next to his body.
The story – Police received a 911 call about a man breaking car and house windows while trespassing through backyards and climbing over fences to go from yard to yard.
Two patrol officers responded. A police helicopter also arrived on-scene and hovered above the area, filming the activity below. Their video shows a man moving through backyards, peering into the window of a vehicle, and then climbing a fence. Next we see the officers running toward the man.
Police body cam footage shows the officers, from their POV, running after the man. They’re using flashlights. It is difficult to see anything other than what the narrow beams of light illuminate. They see the man in the corner of a backyard and one officers calls for him to show his hands and, in practically the same breath, he yells, “Gun, gun, gun!
The next thing we see is gunfire. One round after another after another. Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.
Protesters, activists, and Clark’s family (and attorney) have all said the police, in addition to shooting an unarmed man, fired too many rounds.
First let’s address the unarmed part of this unfortunate incident. To do so, I ask that you click over to read what I had to say about the topic in an earlier post titled DEADLY FORCE: YES, AN UNARMED TEEN COULD KILL YOU.
Next, “too many rounds.”
Do Officers Count The Numbers of Rounds They Fire?
Police are taught to shoot to stop a threat. Then, when the threat ceases to exist the use of deadly force must stop. This could mean one round or one hundred. Whatever it takes. But, in the heat of the moment when you feel that your life is in danger, that you could DIE at any second, a person typically doesn’t have the time or presence of mind to count the number of times they’ve pulled the trigger. Believe me, to be involved in a shooting is a scary situation.
In fact, even when a shooting is staged for training purposes and you’re firing lasers at a pretend target, well, see for yourself in the video below. This is why officers often tend to fire a lot of rounds and not have a clue as to the number they fired.
This recording from the Writers’ Police Academy is an eye-opener. The videos that follow are the officer’s body cam video during the shooting of Stephon Clark (warning, the video shows the shooting and the body afterward), and the footage from the helicopter.
When you’ve watched all videos, please take a moment to reflect and to place yourself in the shoes of officers everywhere who have to make these decisions within the blink of an eye. Then imagine what it’s like to live with taking the life of another human. It ain’t pretty.
From the Writers’ Police Academy – More than she thought?
Sacramento officer’s body cam …
Helicopter footage …
I understand the problem for the police, but I can’t help thinking about the person they killed. He had a cell phone in his hand, and now he’s dead. He didn’t even have a chance to raise his hands or drop the phone.
But … had he not been breaking windows and climbing over fences to avoid the police then this would not have happened.
And, suppose the phone had been a gun and the officers waited until the man fired before reacting? Should police officers take a bullet first before addressing a threat? This guy was acting in every way like he’d do what it took to avoid capture. I know, it’s unfortunate and it’s a tragedy for the family. It’s also a tragedy for the officers who fired the shots. They have to live with this for the rest of their lives, and those lives are now ruined.
Police nowadays are faced with a no-win situation. They’re expected to protect people and arrest bad guys, but many people expect them to do their jobs in a passive manner. Well, that simply does not work when many crooks love to hurt cops, and it’s worse when a criminal is attempting to flee/escape custody. Some kill to avoid jail.
Yes, this sort of thing happens every single day. Ambushes of police officers, assaults, shootings, beatings, cuttings, stabbings, and more. Every day. Hundreds upon hundreds of times. People who’ve not been exposed to the criminal element in their cities have no clue what it’s like to never know which person is going to be the next cop-killer.
Sure, this man had a phone and nothing more, and it’s horrible that he lost his life over this incident. But, had he simply not been breaking the law … Had he simply stopped and showed his hands when ordered to do so … Had he not run from the police …
We did a simulation on one of the Kiss of Death Tours in San Antonio with the Lackland AFB security officers. It was really eye opening.
I agree with Lyn that it must be pins and needles for a police officer’s family the entire time they’re on their shift.
It’s so easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. Yes, it was a cellphone and not a gun, but it could just as easily have been a gun. Officers must for their own safety choose the worst case scenario. Their lives are at stake. If that young man had not run, if he had stopped and raised his hands and followed the officers’ instructions to the letter, he would not have been shot. Why can’t people learn and accept that?
Lee, I wish every citizen in the US could go through a Firearms Training Simulator, as I did at the WPA. It was much more intense than I expected as well as eye opening, as the woman in your video describes.
I don’t know how the police manage to do their job every day, or how their families cope with wondering if they will come home after their shift <3