Grand­mother of slain Sacramento man calls for po­lice changes now

South Florida Times - - NATION - By DON THOMP­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The grand­mother of an un­armed black man killed by Sacramento po­lice called Mon­day for changes in the way po­lice con­front sus­pects, such as send­ing in a po­lice dog, us­ing a Taser, or aim­ing for an arm or leg when shots are fired.

Se­quita Thomp­son said at an emo­tional news con­fer­ence that po­lice didn't need to shoot at 22-year-old Stephon Clark 20 times, killing him in her dark­ened back­yard March 18.

“They didn't have to kill him like that, they didn't have to shoot him that many times,” she said through sobs, re­count­ing the night of his slay­ing. She be­lieves Clark was in the back­yard try­ing to get into the house he shared with his grand­par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers when he was shot.

He's the lat­est prom­i­nent face of young black men killed by po­lice na­tion­wide, said the fam­ily's renowned civil rights at­tor­ney, Ben­jamin Crump. He called it an “ex­e­cu­tion” of a man who “chose non­vi­o­lence” and was found with only a cell­phone and not the hand­gun po­lice thought he was aim­ing in their di­rec­tion.

Mem­bers of the Sacramento Kings and Bos­ton Celtics NBA teams took up his cause Sun­day, wear­ing Clark's name on black warm-up T-shirts three days af­ter pro­test­ers formed a hu­man chain block­ing en­trances to the Kings' Golden1 Cen­ter and pre­vented all but about 1,500 fans from en­ter­ing.

Po­lice said they were pur­su­ing a sus­pect who had bro­ken at least three car win­dows and a neigh­bor's slid­ing glass door. They say the sus­pect fled from two re­spond­ing of­fi­cers and ig­nored com­mands to stop and show his hands. Video and au­dio record­ings re­leased by the depart­ment last week show the of­fi­cers ap­pear to gen­uinely be­lieve Clark had a gun, and in­de­pen­dent ex­perts said they are un­likely to face crim­i­nal charges.

Lead­ers of the NAACP want the Sacramento po­lice depart­ment to change its foot pur­suit pol­icy to al­low for op­tions like wait­ing for backup, send­ing in a po­lice dog, back­ing off and main­tain­ing sur­veil­lance or us­ing less-than-lethal force like Tasers dur­ing con­fronta­tions.

“We're al­ways open to the con­ver­sa­tion about how we can do things dif­fer­ently or bet­ter and this case is no dif­fer­ent,” said De­tec­tive Ed­die Ma­caulay, a depart­ment spokesman.

The NAACP also called for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion but said the two of­fi­cers should be crim­i­nally charged. State NAACP Pres­i­dent Alice Huffman said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has asked the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment's civil rights divi­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the killing. The group also wants Cal­i­for­nia to cre­ate an in­spec­tor gen­eral to in­ves­ti­gate po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings.

It is rare for po­lice of­fi­cers to even be charged fol­low­ing a shoot­ing and rarer still for them to be con­victed. Of­ten times it's be­cause of the doc­trine of rea­son­able fear: if prose­cu­tors or ju­rors be­lieve that of­fi­cers have a rea­son to fear for their safety, they can use force up to and in­clud­ing lethal force.

More­over, of­fi­cers are trained to keep fir­ing un­til they be­lieve the threat has been elim­i­nated, rather than aim­ing to wound a sus­pect who then might still be able to at­tack them.

Crump said the fam­ily planned Mon­day to view Clark's body in prepa­ra­tion for an in­de­pen­dent au­topsy. A wake is planned for Wed­nes­day night and his fu­neral is Thurs­day, said NAACP Sacramento Branch Pres­i­dent Betty Wil­liams. Clark's un­cle, Kur­tis Gor­don, in brief re­marks with his voice crack­ing thanked for­mer Kings player De­Mar­cus Cousins for help­ing to cover the fu­neral ex­penses and for the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional out­pour­ing of sup­port for his fam­ily.

“No fam­ily should have to en­dure this pain and suf­fer­ing,” Crump, who rep­re­sented the fam­i­lies of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, said at a news con­fer­ence in­ter­rupted by shouts of “amen,” “enough is enough” and the chant­ing of Clark's name.

Thomp­son re­counted in a barely au­di­ble voice how she was watch­ing a video of a grand­daugh­ter danc­ing when, “all I heard is boom, boom, boom.”

She crawled to where her seven-year-old grand­daugh­ter was sleep­ing on the couch and pulled her to the floor, then crawled to her hus­band and told him to call 911. Her hus­band said he'd heard some­one come to the back­door and ask to be let in.

“It had to be our grand­son,” Thomp­son said, wail­ing.

Homi­cide de­tec­tives later told her not to look out­side where she would see the body of Clark, the fa­ther of two young sons.

“Now my great-grand­ba­bies don't have their daddy,” she said. “Why didn't they just shoot him in the arm, shoot him in the leg? Send a dog? Send a Taser? Why? Ya'll didn't have to do that.

“I want jus­tice for my baby,” she said be­fore sob­bing on Crump's shoul­ders and be­ing led away. “I want jus­tice for Stephon Clark.”

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