Stephon Clark, an unarmed Sacramento man killed by police in his grandmother’s backyard last month, was shot from behind six times, according to an independent autopsy released Friday.
Two more bullets hit the 22-year-old father in the leg and the arm March 18 — wounds inflicted by police who said they were hunting a neighborhood vandal.
In police accounts, cops said that Clark, whose death prompted major protests in across the country, had been facing them and holding an “object” extended in front of him. That object was later determined to be a white cell phone.
The findings from independent coroner Dr. Bennet Omalu — hired by the Clark family — sharply contradict the cops’ version of events.
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“That he was assailing the officers, meaning he was facing the officers, is inconsistent with the prevailing forensic evidence” as documented in the autopsy, Omalu said at a Friday press conference.
The episode that robbed Clark of his life began with police investigating three broken car windows in the neighborhood. A dispatcher told the officers that the vandal may have been holding a toolbar.
Stephon Clark was fatally shot by Sacramento Police on March 18, 2018.
A police helicopter saw Clark vaulting a neighbor’s fence into his grandparents’ backyard and alerted police on the ground. That’s where cops closed in on him.
The officers ducked behind the house as one shouted, “Show me your hands! Gun!”
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Seconds later, an officer again shouts, “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!” Then the officers unleashed a 20-shot fusillade.
One of the officers ordered the other to mute his body camera directly after the shooting.
“It looked like a gun from our perspective,” the officer told his supervisors. No gun was found at the scene.
Stephon Clark laid to rest in Sacramento
Video recorded by a department helicopter shows that police did not administer first aid right away, but handcuffed Clark as he lay dying on the ground.
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The young man clung to life for three to 10 minutes after bullets shattered bone, severed blood vessels, injured his aorta and lodged in his spine, according to the family’s autopsy.
“It was not an instantaneous death,” Omalu said.
A punctured lung and major bleeding cut off air to Clark’s brain, meaning he slowly lost the oxygen supply to his brain, the independent medical examiner said.
“Every minute you wait decreases the probability of survival,” Omalu said.
Attorney Ben Crump looks at a diagram showing gunshot wounds to Stephon Clark.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The death sparked outrage across the country — and ongoing protests in Sacramento. The officers were placed on suspension immediately and the local chapter of the NAACP questioned the police department’s inconsistencies.
The Sacramento mayor called the death “tragic” and “wrong,” but stopped short of blaming the officers.
“I viewed the videos carefully. Based on the videos alone, I cannot second guess the split-second decision of our officers and I’m not going to do that,” he said.
Clark’s family hired Omalu, the “Concussion Doctor” one of the first phsycians to draw attention to the long term trauma caused by head injuries in the NFL, because they said they had lost faith in the county and the police’s shifting version of events. “
It’s very simple. The narrative that’s been put forth is they had to open fire because he was charging toward them,” civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing Clark’s family, told reporters Friday. Yet the autopsy shows, Crump said, "all of the bullets were from behind.”
Stephon Clark is seen running through the backyard of a house on March 18, 2018.
(Sacramento Police Department via AFP/Getty Images)
Sacramento County Coroner Kim Gin determined Clark’s cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and listed his manner of death as a homicide. The coroner’s office declined to comment on the exact number of times Clark was shot. Their official report is not expected for another several weeks.
Protests erupted after the police shooting, shutting down traffic and delaying the in Sacremento Kings game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Demonstrators held signs that read “Sac PD: Stop Killing us!” Protests were also held in Ferguson, Mo., Milwaukee, New York City and Baton Rouge, La., where a white police officer was fired for shooting a black man during an arrest in 2016.
The results of the independent autopsy come just one day after Clark’s funeral, which was attended by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“We are here to say that we’re going to stand with Stephon Clark and the leaders of this family. This is about justice,” Sharpton said. “This is about standing with people with courage.”
Clark’s brutal death echoed the police-involved shootings of multiple black men across America, stretching back to the 1999 killing in New York of Amadou Diallo.
The unarmed African immigrant was standing in his Bronx vestibule with his wallet in his hand when four NYPD officers fired 41 shots at him. No weapon was found at the scene — but cops said that they thought his wallet was a gun.
Thirteen years after Diallo’s death, unarmed teen Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a wannabe cop acting as an unauthorized neighborhood watchman. George Zimmerman said he killed the 17-year-old in self-defense, but it turned out Trayvon was carrying Skittles — not a gun.