A week after Sacramento, Calif. police officers fired 20 shots at 22-year-old Stephon Clark in his backyard, his grandmother is demanding answers.
"They didn't have to kill him like that," said Clark's grandmother, Sequita Thompson at a news conference on Monday. "They didn't have to shoot him that many times."
After responding to a call of a man allegedly breaking windows in a South Sacramento neighborhood, police claim they spotted Clark at a residence and demanded that he show his hands. According to a press release issued by the department, officers claim the father of two toddlers fled to the back of the house and “turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him.”
Officers say they believed Clark was holding a gun and fired 20 shots, striking him several times, before realizing he was actually clutching an iPhone.
Thompson, who was home when her grandson was shot, recounted the horror of the night. After hearing the shots, she crawled to the living room with her 7-year-old grandchild in tow and told her husband to call 911. Police claimed they identified themselves before firing on Clark, but Thompson said she only heard gunshots.
“The only thing that I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, and I got to the ground,” Thompson recalled last week. “I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming.”
The fatal incident was documented on the officers’ body cameras and the footage was released to the public. The video shows officers gunning down Clark just seconds after arriving on the scene, and then muting their audio when backup arrives and they discuss what happened.
To aid in the search for answers, Clark’s family has hired noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
“They feel that, at best, police have intentionally misled them, and at worst they flat-out lied to justify this execution of Stephon Clark in his backyard,” Crump said, also noting he plans to bring a lawsuit against the department.
“[Police] said the first day after the execution that he had a weapon, that’s why they had to shoot him 20 times. Then the next day they changed it and said he had some kind of crowbar or toolbar, to justify why they had to shoot him 20 times. Then finally they came clean and said he didn’t have any weapon of any sort. All he had was a cell phone.”
As investigators work to get to the bottom of what actually happened the night Clark lost his life, Thompson and her family say they want one thing: justice."Why didn't you shoot him in the arm? Shoot him in the legs? Send in dogs? Send in a Taser? Why?" the tearful grandmother asked. "Justice! I want justice for my baby! I want justice for Stephon Clark. Please give us justice!"