The ongoing national speculation into Stephon Clark’s death in Sacramento continues to weigh heavily on many as the investigation moves forward. Sacramento police officers shot the 22-year-old father of two to death in the backyard of the home he shared with his family.
In an attempt to answer some questions, the Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn joined Gadi Schwartz for a special interview on NBC News.
“This is a tragic event, especially for the family and friends, but also for the community at large and for the police department,” said Chief Hahn, who is Sacramento’s first Black Police Chief. “I really wanted people to have a conversation about the facts and one of the best ways for people to see as many facts as they can is by watching it with their own eyes.”
Last week, the department released three videos, two with audio and one from an aerial view, in an attempt to dispel the criticism they were receiving for the shooting.
“The officers responded to a call and, ultimately, were able to see the subject they believe was responsible for the breaking into the cars that they were there for. Helicopters were over their head and they chased them. They felt that their lives were in danger and they fired.”
The officers — and apparently the Chief, as well, maintain that the man they reportedly saw running on aerial view was the same man they found on foot. They claim to have ordered the man to show his hands, but instead, the man began to run to the back of a nearby house. These initial commands are not heard on the video.
Their story details that once confronted in the backyard, the man (Clark) then came rushing towards them with an object in his hands. This object, which was first described as a gun, and later described as a “tool bar,” has never been found or identified from the scene.
What was recovered near his body, however, was a cell phone.
Where’s the audio?
Schwartz asks an important question, one of which has been among the lead causes adding to the hostility between the police and the protestors following Clark’s death.
“Why did the officers turn off the [microphones] on their cameras?”
“I don’t know,” responded Chief Hahn, “so that’s all part of the investigation of the reason for that. There are various reasons why somebody would, I just don’t know what their reason was.”
Additionally, the Sacramento Police Department is under fire for having shot Clark 20 times. The shooting followed the one and only command — and with less than one second following — in which an officer can be heard saying “Put your hands up,” immediately followed by “gun!” and a barrage of bullets.
“As soon as they did the command, they started shooting,” said Stephon Clark’s aunt to the Sacramento Bee. “They said ‘put your hands up, gun’ and then they just let loose on my nephew.”
“They didn’t give him a chance to put his hands up or anything, and then when they shot him down, they knew they messed up,” she continued.
Six minutes after the shooting, one officer can be heard telling another, “hey, mute,” referring to his body camera. At that time, both officers apparently muted their microphones for the remainder of the video.
Officers claim they were “fearing for their safety” and so fired multiple shots at the victim, hitting him multiple times and killing him at 9:26 p.m, meaning these events took place in the span of a minute.
On the video, it’s apparent that the officers shot Clark in less than 10 seconds of making contact with him.