SACRAMENTO, Calif. – People at a rally to renew calls for justice in the police shooting death of an unarmed black man expressed outrage over how an autopsy showed Stephon Clark was shot in the back, challenging the police department’s statement that he was approaching officers when he was killed.
Sacramento native and former NBA player Matt Barnes organized Saturday’s rally, which began hours before a Sacramento Kings-Golden State Warriors game was likely to bring thousands of fans to the downtown arena that protesters have twice blocked.
Barnes said the fight for justice for Clark, who was shot in his grandmother’s backyard, is about “more than color.” It “comes down to right and wrong,” and the two police officers who shot and killed Clark must be held accountable, he said.
Clark’s fiancee and his young children were among those at the rally, which came a day after several hundred people mounted a mostly peaceful protest downtown.
“His back was turned – he didn’t get a chance,” said Latarria McCain, who joined Friday’s protest, which lasted more than four hours and disrupted traffic.
Several Kings players joined black community activists’ calls for racial justice at a community meeting on Friday, nearly two weeks after Clark’s March 18 death.
“I want to make sure that these mistakes that keep happening have consequences,” Kings guard Garrett Temple said.
Earlier, pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu announced that Clark was hit by eight bullets – six in the back, one in the neck and one in the thigh – and took three to 10 minutes to die. Police waited about five minutes before rendering medical aid.
Omalu, speaking at a news conference with family attorney Benjamin Crump, said the proposition that Clark was assailing the officers, meaning he was facing them, is “inconsistent with the prevailing forensic evidence.” He said it was unclear if Clark would have survived had he gotten immediate medical attention.
Sacramento police said they had not received an autopsy report from the county coroner’s office. They said the coroner’s death investigation is independent from an investigation being conducted by them and the state Department of Justice.
A day after the shooting, police distributed a press release that said the officers who shot Clark “saw the suspect facing them, advance forward with his arms extended, and holding an object in his hands.” The officers have been placed on leave.
Police video of the shooting doesn’t clearly capture all that happened after Clark ran into his grandmother’s backyard. Clark initially moved toward the officers, who were peeking out from behind a corner of the house, but it’s unclear if he was facing them or knew they were there when they opened fire after shouting “gun, gun, gun.”
After 20 shots, officers called to him, apparently believing he might still be alive and armed. They eventually approached and found no gun, just a cellphone.
Friday’s rally had a message similar to those of earlier gatherings, with members of the black community discussing police brutality and calling out of the names of black people who have been killed by law enforcement. Afterward, protesters chanted outside City Hall and marched through downtown for hours. Confrontations between the protesters and police or other civilians were minimal, and the march was largely peaceful.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, called Clark’s death tragic and said “raises a number of very serious questions.” He said he supports the state attorney general’s independent oversight of the investigation.
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