Grief, Anger as Sacramento Mourns Stephon Clark

Clark was killed March 18

Protesters demanding justice for Stephon Clark marched through downtown Sacramento Wednesday, blocking intersections and disrupting rush hour traffic, NBC affiliate KCRA reported

Demonstrations have become near-daily since the fatal police shooting of Clark, 22, on March 18 in his grandmother's backyard. Officers said they believed Clark to be armed, but he was only holding a cellphone.

Earlier in the day, friends, family and community members had gathered to grieve Clark at his public wake.

Some at the wake wore black shirts calling for justice, while one woman held up a clenched fist as she exited the church. The wake was largely quiet until Clark's brother, Stevante Clark, shouted at the media to leave before being picked up and carried away. The outburst came a day after he disrupted a Sacramento City Council meeting and chanted his brother's name at Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Some expressed anger and said the two police officers who shot Clark should be charged, while other mourners said they could clearly envision their own families in Clark's family's place.

"This feels like the '60s, it doesn't feel like 2018. We've definitely regressed," said Cynthia Brown, a friend of Clark's grandfather who brought her 10- and 15-year-old grandsons to the wake. "To me, (they) could be Stephon Clark."

The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to deliver the eulogy at Clark's Thursday funeral.

Tensions remain high in California's capital city following the shooting. Two Sacramento police officers were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows fatally shot him in his grandparents' backyard. Police say they believe Clark was the suspect and he ran when a police helicopter responded, then did not obey officers' orders.

Police say they thought Clark was holding a gun when he moved toward them, but he was found only with a cellphone.

Protests have been held almost daily and marchers have twice blocked fans from entering the NBA arena downtown for Sacramento Kings games.

A Kings official said Wednesday that new security measures for Thursday night's game would include ticket checks on the perimeter of the Golden1Center plaza, new barricades and additional police and security personnel presence. 

Sgt. Vince Chandler said officers would be ready to respond in protective gear, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, Steinberg said disruptions like Stevante Clark's at Tuesday's council meeting won't happen again, though he expressed empathy for Clark.

"That sort of demonstration in the council chamber cannot happen again. It won't happen again. But in that moment, that was a brother grieving for the loss of his brother," he said.

For all the angst and raw emotions, grieving and weary family members are skeptical that any substantive change will result before the next young black man dies from police gunfire and siphons away the national media and banner headlines.

"So we appreciate the conversation, but conversation without implementation of some true reformation means nothing," Clark's uncle, Curtis Gordon, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. "It brought us to this moment, but what about tomorrow? What about next week?

"You know, sadly, I have no confidence in America and the fact that I will probably hear another story sometime this year of an innocent life lost over excessive police force. It's so common, you're numb to it."

The California attorney general's office on Tuesday joined the investigation, a move Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he hopes will bring "faith and transparency" to a case that he said has sparked "extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city."

Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office will provide oversight of the investigation and conduct a review of the police department's policies and use-of-force training. The decision of whether to bring criminal charges against the officers involved remains with District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, although Becerra said his office could also bring charges. Black Lives Matter Sacramento has organized several days of protests outside Schubert's office calling for the officers to be charged.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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