By Christine Hauser
The police in Sacramento, searching for someone reported to have been breaking windows, fatally shot a young black man in his backyard over the weekend after he walked toward them carrying what they believed was a gun.
When they examined his body, however, the only object they found was a cellphone.
That was the account that the Sacramento Police Department offered on Tuesday in an update to their investigation into the shooting by officers of the unarmed man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, on Sunday.
Mr. Clark’s relatives, whom he lived with in the South Sacramento neighborhood, could not immediately be reached on Wednesday. But one of them told The Sacramento Bee that family members often entered the home through the garage, after knocking on the back window because the doorbell was broken.
“The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground,” said Sequita Thompson, Mr. Clark’s grandmother, adding, “I opened that curtain and he was dead.”
Mr. Clark’s brother, Stevante, told The Bee that Mr. Clark, who has two children, ages 1 and 3, had been living at the house for about a month, after being released from county jail.
“They’re asking, ‘Where’s Daddy, where’s Daddy?’” said Salena Manni, the mother of Mr. Clark’s children, according to the newspaper. “He was a part of our family. He was our rock.”
The police said that footage from the law enforcement officers’ body cameras and video from a sheriff’s helicopter would be released to the public within 30 days.
On Sunday, at 9:18 p.m., officers from the Sacramento Police Department arrived at a house on 29th Street, investigating reports that someone was breaking the windows of vehicles, a separate, earlier police statement said on Monday. The person who called the police said the suspect was wearing a black hoodie and dark pants and was “hiding in a backyard.”
Officers in a Sheriff’s Department helicopter overhead informed the police that they saw someone matching that description and helped to direct the police to him, saying he had just “picked up a toolbar and broke a window to a residence.” He was then seen running to the front of a house, the statement said.
When officers arrived at the house, they say, the man ran toward the back and they pursued. Then, “the suspect turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him,” the police statement said. “The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them.”
“Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times,” the statement said. Two officers fired 10 rounds each, the police told reporters, according to a report by KCRA.
It did not say whether they had previously been disciplined.
Mr. Clark, who the local news media said had two children, was pronounced dead at the scene, the police said. Investigators found a cellphone near his body but no firearms, they said.
The officers who fired their weapons have been with the department for two and four years and also had several years of experience in other departments. They were placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by district and city attorneys and the Office of Public Safety Accountability, the police said.
Christine Hauser, “Sacramento Man Fatally Shot by the Police in His Backyard”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/us/stephon-clark-police-shooting.html