Sacramento determined Stephon Clark’s death not be in vain


Tiffany Fears, 42, came from Carmichael, north of Sacramento, to support the Clark family. She recalled last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida and the 2015 episode in Charleston, S.C., in which white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black congregants at an African-American church.

“In the church and then with this guy who killed all the kids in Florida, how did the guys with the guns walk away from that?” Fears asked. “But here, this one kid hasn’t done anything and he doesn’t walk away. I don’t get that. I just don’t get that.”

Clark was killed by officers responding to reports of a man smashing car windows. Police bodycam video shows the officers chase Clark and corner him in a backyard. The officers say in the footage that they believed that Clark was armed; one shouts “Gun! Gun! Gun!” before the officers fired 20 times at him. No weapon was found, only a cellphone.

As the video continues to roll in the aftermath of the shooting, one officer says, “Hey, mute,” and the videos’ audio goes silent. Police say their investigation into Clark’s death will include why the officers muted their cameras.

 Stephon Clark in an undated photo. Courtesy Sonia Lewis

Police shooting of unarmed black men have been a cause celebre nationally for years, most famously in Ferguson, Missouri, after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown. People in Sacramento’s poor, minority neighborhoods recall an even more recent deadly confrontation. In July, 2016, police shot and killed a 51-year-old black man with a history of mental disabilities.

Joseph Mann was taken down by 14 bullets, including those fired by an officer who had once been stripped of his weapon because of alcohol and domestic abuse allegations, the Sacramento Bee reported. The two officers involved in the shooting left the police force late last year, though they were not prosecuted.

Cynthia Brown said she strains for what to tell her own grandsons, 23, 15 and 10 years old. Perhaps they should always have their phones in a pouch, never having them in hand, where they might be mistaken for a gun. Or maybe they should throw themselves to the ground, their hands outstretched, any time the police stop them.

“They are perceiving all our young men as one type of person — thuggish, gun-toting, disrespectful,” said Brown. “And every black kid is not a thug. They are not gun-toting. A lot of our black children have love, respect and compassion.”


She said she had a message for police officers: “Find it in your heart to have some compassion, too. Find it in your heart to learn how to deactivate a situation.”

Brown now works as a server for fans at the Golden 1 Center arena. She has seen crowds, and her tips, wither away the last few games, as protestors blocked some fans from entering the NBA’s Sacramento Kings arena. She says that the protests are worth it to keep her fellow citizens just a bit off kilter.

“If you are uncomfortable, remember that we live uncomfortable every day,” Brown said. “I don’t think you are going to see a lot of let up, a lot of back down, in this community. At least until these officers are charged. If they don’t get charged the message will be, ‘We can do what we want to you guys. We can even kill you.’ And that can’t stand.”

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