SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Autopsy findings by a pathologist hired by the family of Stephon Clark call into question the Sacramento Police Department’s assertion that Clark was facing the two officers and advancing toward them when they opened fire and killed him.
Video from Sacramento police officers’ body cameras and a Sheriff’s Department helicopter circling overhead show Clark’s final moments but don’t definitively answer the many questions that have arisen since the March 18 shooting.
Police said they were responding to reports that a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt was breaking car windows. The helicopter video begins with a figure scaling a backyard fence.
“He just broke the window, running south, running to the south,” says a deputy in the helicopter. The video does not show the figure break a window but police say a neighbor’s sliding glass door was broken.
The suspect then approaches a vehicle parked alongside Clark’s grandparents’ house and appears to look inside.
The aerial video shows two police officers running up to the side of the house, one with an arm extended holding a handgun, as the man later determined to be Clark disappears from view into the backyard.
The two officers can be seen coming around the back corner of the house then retreating to the side of the home.
“Show me your hands — gun!” one officer yells, according to the body camera footage . It is dark and the body cameras briefly show the backyard with portions illuminated by the officers’ flashlights, but Clark is not clearly visible in the body camera videos.
“Gun, gun, gun,” one of the officers yells on body camera video before they begin shooting.
As Clark comes back into view from the circling helicopter, he appears to be moving toward the officers as the first visible muzzle flash is seen. He falls forward and to the side, catches himself on his outstretched arms and hands, crawls forward briefly then collapses on top of his hands.
It is not clear when he was first hit or if officers fired before the first visible muzzle flash, but the video shows the officers continue to shoot as Clark lies face down unmoving.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist hired by Clark’s family, watched the helicopter video after conducting his autopsy and said the video is consistent with his findings.
Omalu said Clark was likely facing the house when he was first shot, with the bullet hitting him on the back left side of his torso. The propulsion of the bullet would have been enough to spin his body around so his back was facing the officers, Omalu said, before being hit by subsequent bullets that dropped him to the ground.
He was then shot in the leg, either as he fell or while on the ground, Omalu said.
The 20 shots were fired in about five seconds and Clark makes no discernable movement once the shooting stops.
Omalu said any of the six bullets that hit Clark in the back and one in the neck could have been the fatal shot. An eighth bullet went into Clark’s thigh.
Omalu said Clark’s death was not instantaneous and likely took between three and 10 minutes. Police approached the body after about five minutes.