St. Louis police accused of killing grandfather in his sleep during raid

“We demand justice for Don Clark, Sr.," St. Louis' civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders stated

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A family in St. Louis has filed a federal lawsuit in response to a police raid that claimed the life of their loved one four years ago.

“We demand justice for Don Clark, Sr., a beloved 63-year-old father, grandfather, and Army veteran who was killed by the SLMPD during an unlawful “no knock” raid on his home in February 2017,” civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders stated in a recent tweet. 

ArchCity Defenders is leading the lawsuit on behalf of Clark’s children. The organization released a statement on June 30 regarding the case, reading in part: 

“On February 21, 2017, officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, unlawfully stormed into the home of Don Clark, Sr. on a falsified “no knock” search warrant and killed the 63-year-old Army veteran and grandfather who was suffering from vision and hearing loss, limited mobility, and a range of health issues. Today in federal court, Mr. Clark’s children filed a lawsuit against St. Louis City and twenty-one named SLMPD officers, alleging wrongful death and violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments.”

According to the lawsuit, a SWAT team of more than 17 officers rammed into Clark’s home while he was sleeping without prior warning. The officers lobbed a flashbang into his home and then shot at him at least nine times, according to the lawsuit.

Fox 2 Now reports that the St. Louis police chief at the time, Sam Dotson, previously ruled the shooting as justified following an investigation.

Don Clark, Sr. thegrio.com
Elderly Black veteran Don Clark, Sr. was fatally shot by St. Louis police while sleeping in 2017. (Credit: ArchCity Defenders YouTube)

Neighbors reportedly referred to Clark as “Pops,” and his community hopes he will receive justice. His eldest daughter Sherrie Clark-Torrence spoke out against no-knock warrants, per a statement by ArchCity Defenders.

“I want them to get rid of that ‘no-knock’ warrant thing. I feel it shouldn’t exist, and I feel by them doing that they would be saving a lot of people’s lives,” Clark-Torrence stated. “And, that they would take fault for what they did, not just to my Dad, but to everybody that they’ve done this to.”

In addition to calling for accountability, the family also expressed frustration with the lack of transparency involving their father’s death. It took the family a day to get information on where Clark’s body was and confirm whether he was deceased, ArchCity Defenders shared.

“I went and tried to get closer to the police line just to get someone in authority to come let us know — ‘Hey, you know, y’all crime scene is my Dad’s house, we just want to know what’s going on,’” Don Ray Clark, Jr. stated in a release.

ArchCity Defenders shared more information about what happened along with previous wrongdoings by police in a statement reading: 

“That night, Mr. Clark’s residence was one of three homes on a South City block where “no knock” warrants would be executed following SLMPD detective Thomas Strode’s use of identical affidavits to apply for the warrants. Despite the fact that Mr. Clark had never been convicted of a crime, Detective Strode’s warrant application falsely claimed that the 63-year-old Mr. Clark ‘engaged in criminal activity.’ Nor is this the first time that SLMPD detectives have misrepresented information on a “no knock” search warrant. The lawsuit cites examples of multiple SLMPD detectives who previously lied about the existence of confidential informants, lied about conducting surveillance, or otherwise applied for warrants without probable cause.”

Emanuel Powell, an attorney with ArchCity Defenders, called the case tragic and said it highlights “the serious institutional failures of the City of St. Louis in addressing SLMPD’s excessive and indiscriminate use of SWAT and ‘no knock’ warrants.”

”Ultimately, I think that Don Clark Sr.’s death was a preventable tragedy. Had the police done their due diligence, this would have never happened,” added Attorney Jerryl Christmas, who serves as co-counsel for the lawsuit.

Data published by research collaborative Mapping Police Violence reported that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has the  “highest rate of police killings by population of any police department of the 100 largest U.S. cities.“

At least 69 people were killed by SLMPD between 2009 and 2019, according to the data published by ArchCity Defenders

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