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Unrest intensifies in Sacramento over police killing of unarmed Stephon Clark

Unrest intensifies in Sacramento over police killing of unarmed Stephon Clark
People protest the police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento. Protesters briefly closed down Interstate 5 in both directions. (Associated Press)

Angry protests continued into the wee hours Saturday morning on the streets of Sacramento over the shooting of an unarmed African American man by police.

Protests began Friday at the state Capitol and continued into the streets of downtown, with marchers briefly blocking both lanes of traffic on Interstate 5. Demonstrators and police officers clashed in south Sacramento on Friday night, and video showed protesters surrounding, kicking and climbing on top of a police car. Another video from early Saturday morning showed a tense standoff between protesters and a line of police in riot gear.

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It was the latest in a week of unrest over the death of Stephon Clark, who was shot at 20 times by police in the backyard of the home where he lived with his grandparents. Police said they believed he had a gun, but authorities recovered only a cellphone near his body.

On Friday, protesters held their fists up in a moment of silence. They denounced the killing of young black people at the hands of police and the mainstream media for what they said was unfair news coverage of shooting victims who are minorities. Some in the crowd had gone to school with Clark and remembered him as good father and loyal friend.

Former classmates Chrishayla Treadwell, 23, and Dominique Rodriguez, 22, took the day off from their jobs as healthcare workers to join the demonstration. They wore black shirts with Clark's photo and bold, red block lettering that read, "Long Live Zoe."

"We had to be here," Rodriguez said. "He was like family. It would be wrong if we weren't."

Treadwell said she had been shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of Clark's killing.

"He was always smiling," she said. "We never saw him mad."

Elijah Johnson, 24, said he was disturbed to learn Clark had been killed in his own backyard, 15 minutes away from Johnson's home.

"When you hear, you think, 'Man, that could have been me. That could have been my brother. That could have been my sister,' " he said. "You hurt."

A petition circulating on the Color of Change website Friday demanded that Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert bring charges against the officers who shot Clark.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg was more reserved, saying the department should consider increasing its use of less-than-lethal weapons, but he did not fault the officers involved in Clark's shooting. He expressed concern about demonstrators resorting to vandalism or violence.

"That's not right. Strength is in peaceful resistance," Steinberg said in an interview Friday, putting his hands over his face. "There has to be a better way."

He said Clark's death, though still under investigation, "was wrong" and points to the need not only for more administrative change, but also a reckoning with racism itself.

"We have to stand up for our children," said Diane Gomez, a city resident who brought a hand-written placard that read, "Where was his constitutional right to due process?"

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"Our kids and men don't feel safe," said Steinberg, adding that he welcomed the spotlight the city is now under. "There is no danger if we do the right thing, if we push aggressively to change what must be changed."

Recordings released by the Police Department include a 911 call about a man in a black hoodie breaking car windows Sunday night.

The man "busted both my truck windows out, and he's in people's backyards right now," the caller said.

About 9:25 p.m., officers in a sheriff's helicopter spotted a man who they said had picked up a "toolbar" and broken a house window.

Video from the helicopter appears to show Clark scaling a tall fence and peering into a vehicle before running into his own backyard.

Shaky body cam footage shows officers running up a dark driveway. "Hey! Show me your hands! Stop! Stop!" one officer yells. They turn a corner and spot Clark in the glare of their flashlights, then take cover behind a building before confronting him once more and firing a barrage of bullets at him.

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