Unarmed Sacremento Man Shot in His Backyard

Nathan Bixby

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On Sunday, March 18th an unarmed African American male, Stephon Clark, was fatally shot by police in his grandparent’s backyard. It has been reported that the Sacramento Police Department received calls on Sunday night about a young black man breaking into vehicles. People calling the police claimed that the man who had been breaking into cars was hiding in the backyard of one of the homes in their neighborhood. The calls triggered a response by the police department where they spotted Clark, seemingly filling the criteria for being the criminal, in his backyard. The LA Times reports that the police mistook the cell phone that Clark was carrying a gun. Immediately they fired 20 rounds of ammunition into Clark, killing him on the scene. 

According to eyewitness testimony from Clark’s grandmother, the officers did not attempt to defuse the situation before firing shots on Clark. She said, “You could have said ‘halt.’ You all didn’t say ‘halt.’ I heard the gunshots.” On March 21st, the Sacramento Police Department released video of the shooting. Video evidence clearly shows Clark trying to escape the police but does not show evidence of the police trying to calm the situation before firing on Clark. The Sacramento Police Department maintains that Clark was indeed the man that was breaking into vehicles earlier that night while Clark’s family and friends deny the claim.

Public outrage ensued immediately after news spread of the shooting. One of the most notable demonstrations took place before the Sacramento Kings basketball game where the protests were so strong that the game experienced a delay. CNN reports that protestors shouting, “Black lives matter,” blocked the entrance to the Kings’ arena. The game was delayed until the Kings finally decided to halt further entry into the arena and let the game be played in a mostly empty stadium. Kings owner, Vivek Ranadivé, addressed the fans after the game saying, “We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again.”

NBA players around the league also voiced their concerns over the shooting. Former Kings Star and current New Orleans Pelicans center, Demarcus Cousins, offered to cover the costs of Clark’s funeral. Elsewhere around the league, Golden State Warriors forward, David West, took a more political stance on the shooting, remarking, “We’ve been dealing with these issues for hundreds of years and so they continue. . . We won’t look at real solutions, so these things continue to happen.” West’s coach, Steve Kerr, gave a more generic message about the shooting and the resulting public protests saying, “The main sentiment, though, is horror and sadness for the family involved and there’s not much else to say,” Kerr said.

Further information about the names of the officers who shot and killed Clark was released later this week. The Sacramento Bee reports that the two officers were Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet. Contrary to the narrative that the shooting was an act of racism, the Bee states that, like Clark, Mercadel is an African American. According to Vox, a further investigation into the shooting of Clark is currently underway. It can be expected that more clarifying information about the shooting will be released in the coming weeks.