Stephon Clark was gunned down by two Sacramento police officers at a family member’s home while armed only with an iPhone. The fatal shooting has caused outrage in the community and has sparked a series of protests and demonstrations by local activists, including the Sacramento Black Lives Matter chapter. Because racial tensions have reached extreme heights, Police Chief Daniel Hahn has asked for an independent investigation into the incident.
On Tuesday, Chief Hahn announced that the independent probe will be led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. CNN reported that the police chief thought it best for the entire community that the integrity of the investigation be protected. Hahn noted that the entire community has been experiencing “extremely high emotions, anger, and hurt” since the tragic March 18 incident. Both Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Chief Hahn hope that taking these steps will help keep the community calm.
At the press conference, Becerra acknowledged that while the department of justice was invited by the local police department, he will make sure that the agency remains an independent party to the investigation. The attorney general vowed to oversee the investigation while conducting a separate review “based on the facts and the law–nothing more, nothing less.”
Several factors point to the need for the independent review. Deemed a robbery suspect, the father of two was fired upon some 20 times as he stood in his grandmother’s backyard. The 22-year-old’s death has been ruled a homicide, although details of the autopsy have not been released.
Furthermore, police body camera footage revealed that the officers did not provide Clark with any first aid or lifesaving care until additional units arrived several minutes later. CNN also reported that footage from the police helicopter indicated that the encounter lasted less than a minute. This factor suggests that Clark was not given an opportunity to comply with the officers’ commands.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid leave while the case is under investigation. In their report, the officers alleged that the cell phone Stephon Clark was holding looked like a gun. Clark’s grandmother was at home during the shooting and has offered a contrasting version of events. The family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent their interests in any criminal and civil actions against the city.