SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento police officials have released the harrowing audio and video, including footage from two officers’ body cameras, in the shooting death of an unarmed black man killed by police Sunday night.
Stephon Alonzo Clark, 23, was shot multiple times in the backyard of his grandparents’ house, where he lived with several siblings. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn previously said the two unnamed officers involved in the shooting, who are on administrative leave while the case remains under investigation, fired on Clark 20 times.
The footage was made public after it was shared with Clark’s family, per department policy.
The body camera footage shows that the officers opened fire upon Clark seconds after encountering him on his patio. It also shows that, while the two officers involved ordered Clark to show them his hands, neither identified themselves as police officers.
Clark’s aunt, Saquoia Durham, told The Sacramento Bee that her nephew did not stand a chance.
“As soon as they did the command, they started shooting,” Durham told the newspaper. “They said, ‘Put your hands up, gun’ and then they just let loose on my nephew. They didn’t give him a chance to put his hands up or anything, and then when they shot him down, they knew they messed up.”
Family members and local activists also wondered why one of the videos shows, about six minutes after the shooting, an officer saying, “Hey, mute.” Officers are then seen muting the microphones on their body cameras for the rest of the recording released to the public.
A police spokesman told the Bee there are a number of reasons officers may choose to mute their microphones, but did not go into detail.
The officers who shot at Clark said they believed he was armed, but all that was found with his body was a cellphone. The killing has sparked protests and demands from Clark’s family and friends, as well as Sacramento officials, for answers about why an unarmed man was killed outside his own home.
The Bee reported that the Rev. Al Sharpton has been in touch with Clark’s family and plans to travel to Sacramento to help ensure that Clark has a proper burial. The family has established a GoFundMe page to help fund his funeral arrangements, which include being buried next to a brother also cut down by gun violence, the Bee reported.
Clark’s grandparents and other family members were inside the house as the shooting took place. His grandfather called 911 after hearing the gunshots, and his grandmother, Sequita Thompson, said she only learned the dead man was her grandson when she looked out the window after hours of police questioning on what she heard that night.
“I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming,” Thompson told the Bee.
The shooting and the events surrounding it are laid out in the audio and video released Wednesday night, beginning with a 911 call from a resident in Clark’s neighborhood. The caller tells a dispatcher that there is a man going through the neighborhood and breaking vehicle windows, including those on the caller’s truck.
“What did he use to break the windows?” the dispatcher asks.
“I have no idea,” the man 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.”
The caller 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 the caller tells her he could not determine the man’s race because of the dark hoodie he was wearing. The suspect was wearing pants that appeared to have white stripes or dots on them, he says.
During silent periods in the call, at least one dog can be heard barking in the background. The dispatcher continues to get the scant details of the vandal’s appearance: he’s tall, at more than 6 feet, and thin.
The dispatcher tells the caller that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office is sending a helicopter to search for the man and keep an eye on him until city police officers arrive. The weekend was a busy one because of St. Patrick’s Day, she says.
The caller, a mechanic, tells the dispatcher that he keeps his tools in his truck, so the sound of his windows being broken alarmed him.
“He’s lucky to be alive, if I would have gotten a hold of him,” the caller says, laughing.
At that point in the 911 call, the officers who would shoot and kill Clark were about a block and a half away, according to the dispatcher.
Audio from the dispatch office gives a glance into the same time frame from the viewpoint of law enforcement officers. The dispatcher relays a description of the accused vandal, and a male voice from the helicopter overhead mentions two large dogs as the only heat sources he can see on the infrared camera.
A few minutes later, the deputy in the helicopter comes back on, telling the responding officers below he sees a man looking in the window of a home.
“Two yards to the south of you, I’ve got a guy in a backyard looking into their window,” the deputy says. “He’s picking up a -- looks like a toolbar, or some sort of thing. He might be trying to break the window. Stand by.”
A moment later, the deputy says, “Okay, he’s breaking the window! Running south! Running to the south!”
The footage from the circling helicopter does not show Clark smashing the window, but picks up immediately afterward. The deputy is relaying his movements as Clark, seen only as a white figure in the camera’s infrared vision, jumps onto what appears to be a shed and vaults over the fence into his grandparents’ yard.
At that point, he stops running and walks up to a vehicle between the fence and his grandparents’ home, briefly looking inside.
As the helicopter continues to circle, the two police officers on the ground can be seen on the road in front of Clark’s grandparents’ home. One of the officers spots Clark and begins to run toward him, gun drawn.
His partner follows and, as both officers run in his direction, Clark goes around the corner into the backyard of the house. Both officers follow, with one running into the open for a second before grabbing his partner and taking cover at the corner of the house.
The officers huddle there and, as the helicopter’s camera gets a full view of the backyard, shots can be seen fired from the officers’ guns.
Clark falls to the ground on his grandparents’ patio as the bullets ricochet off the pavement around him. He appears to try crawling away before becoming still.
“Shots fired! Shots fired!” the deputy in the helicopter says.
“Copy, shots fired,” the dispatcher responds.
One of the officers on the ground, sounding out of breath, tells the dispatcher that the man is down, with no movement. He requests that backup officers arrive from a specific direction and asks that fire medics be en route.
The officers have been criticized for waiting five minutes, until backup arrived, before rendering aid to Clark. Fire medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
At one point, the dispatcher asks the officers if they also need medics.
“Negative,” an officer responds. “Neither one of us are hit, we’re okay. Suspect’s down.”
The footage from the officers’ body cameras prior to the gunfire starts out quiet, as they make their way through the neighborhood, searching for the man suspected of vandalizing people’s vehicles. In the videos, the officers are seen asking a neighbor’s permission to search her backyard for the man.
As they search, the dogs heard in the original 911 call are much closer. The officers clear a shed before heading back onto the street.
A few moments later, the officers begin running toward the area where the deputy in the helicopter spotted Clark looking into the vehicle window next to his grandparents’ house.
“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, the same officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!”
They then both open fire.
See the body camera footage from both officers, beginning when they first spot Clark, below. Warning: The images and language may be disturbing for some readers.
Footage from the second officer’s body camera shows his hands holding his service weapon around the corner of the house as he and his partner unleash a barrage of bullets. It is not clear from the location of his body camera, which would be attached to his chest, if the second officer could see who he was shooting at.
The second officer’s body camera captured the fiery blasts from his partner’s gun as the gunshots rang out.
“Five seven, shots fired,” the first officer breathlessly tells the dispatcher. “Subject down.”
Over the next few minutes, the officers continue ordering Clark to show them his hands, with no response.
The second officer says that Clark was “still pointing” when he saw him prior to the shooting. They both spend a few moments quietly trying to catch their breath, during which time the officers determine that neither of them was shot.
The officers agree to do a “tactical reload,” a maneuver in which law enforcement officers reload recently-fired weapons with fresh, full magazines to ensure they don’t run out of ammunition. The second officer estimated that he fired his weapon about five times, though his body camera footage shows more.
Hahn has previously said that each officer fired 10 times.
The second officer’s body camera footage shows that additional police officers began to show up about that time, with one officer asking if the suspect had a gun.
“We haven’t secured it,” the second officer said. “We’re not moving in until we have more (backup).”
The first officer is also heard saying, “(Clark’s) still down, he’s not moving. We can’t see the gun.”
The officers tell their colleagues that Clark walked toward them with his hands out in front of him and that he held something that looked like a gun.
As the officers speak, their flashlights highlight Clark’s body, lying face-down on the patio. They continue to search from a distance for a gun.
They also continue to try to get a response from Clark.
“Hey, can you hear us?” one officer yells.
“We need to know if you’re okay,” a female officer says. “We need to get you medics, but we can’t go over there to get you help unless we know you don’t have your weapon.”
They continue trying to speak to the motionless Clark as sirens are heard in the background.
“Sir, can you move?” the female officer asks. “Can you hear us?”
At least one officer keeps a gun trained on Clark the entire time and, for a few moments, the second of the first two officers on the scene suggests firing a non-lethal weapon at his body to ensure he isn’t faking unconsciousness, the footage shows. It does not appear that the officers did so.
A few minutes later, the footage shows the officers finally approaching Clark’s body.
“Hey, if one of you guys want to go hands, cover him … oh, (expletive),” the second officer says as they get to Clark.
The body camera shows the edge of something flat and light-colored peeking out from underneath his body. As they handcuff his limp hands behind his back and turn him over to start CPR, their flashlights show what the item is.
It is the iPhone Clark was carrying.