Sacramento, CA – An alleged vehicle burglar who shattered a glass door of an occupied home was fatally shot by police on Sunday night, after he advanced on police while extending his arm towards them like he was aiming a gun.
The item in his hand turned out to be a cell phone.
Soon thereafter, the officers received a notification from deputies inside a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) helicopter that they had witnessed a man in the backyard of a residence, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The suspect, later identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark, was using a “tool bar” to break out the rear sliding glass door of the occupied home, deputies said. Investigators later found a cinder block and a strip of aluminum lying near the broken glass.
The homeowner, 88-year-old Bill Wong, was not injured during the incident.
The deputies in the helicopter said that, after shattering the window, Clark began running south.
He then leapt over a fence into an adjacent backyard, which happened to belong to his grandparents.
Clark made his way towards the front of his family’s property, and stopped to peer into another vehicle along the way, police said.
Officers on the ground spotted Clark as he moved along the side of his grandparents’ home, and “gave the suspect commands to stop and show his hands,” police said, according to The Sacramento Bee. “[He] immediately fled from the officers and ran towards the back of the home.”
The officers pursued Clark, who then “turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him,” police said.
"He looked back at our officers and faced them,” Sacramento Police Department (SPD) Sergeant Vance Chandler said, according to WGNO. “[He] had something, an object in his hand, and pointed it at our officers, and at that time our officers believed it was a firearm, and out of fear for their own lives they fired their service weapons."
The two officers fired 10 rounds each, and Sgt. Chandler said he did not know how many times Clark was hit.
The Fire Department pronounced him dead at the scene, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Investigators soon discovered that the object in his hand was a cell phone.
Clark had been residing at his grandparents’ residence “off and on” for over a month, after he was released from jail, his family told The Sacramento Bee.
Despite his youth, Clark had an extensive criminal history, including two felony counts of domestic abuse, robbery, firearm possession, and possession of a controlled substance.
On Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that SPD Chief Daniel Hahn would soon release bodycam and dashcam footage of the incident.
The SCSD’s helicopter footage was also expected to be released, Sgt. Chandler told The Sacramento Bee.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, as per protocol.
One of the officers had six years of law enforcement experience, while the other had served a total of eight years, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Clark’s family members have demanded answers regarding the events that resulted in Clark’s death, and claimed that police unjustifiably killed an “innocent” man.
"An innocent black man, going to his grandma and grandpa's house where he lived," Clark's aunt, Shernita Crosby, told WGNO. "How are you going to explain that? How are you going to justify that?"
“He was running," Crosby said. "So that means that he was probably saying, 'This is my grandmama's house. This is where I live. Leave me alone.'"
"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own backyard?" Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson told The Sacramento Bee. "C'mon now, they didn't have to do that."
Clark’s family described him as a stay-at-home father of two sons, who are one and three years old.
It was unclear who was caring for Clark's children while he was incarcerated.
His family and protesters staged a demonstration in the neighborhood on Monday night, WGNO reported.