The family of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard earlier this year lodged a $35-million wrongful death claim against the city this week.
Stephon Clark, 22, was shot multiple times by two officers investigating reports of someone breaking into cars on March 18. The officers chased Clark into a yard, where authorities say he turned and advanced toward the officers while holding what they thought was a firearm. Only a cellphone was found at the scene.
The claim, filed by attorneys on behalf of Clark’s family, alleges false imprisonment, battery, negligence, failure to summon medical attention and wrongful death. The family is seeking two payments from the city as part of the claim: one for more than $20 million to be paid to Clark’s two young sons and another in excess of $15 million for his parents and grandparents, according to documents released Friday.
Sacramento officials on Friday did not immediately provide a comment.
The claim alleges that officers used “excessive and unreasonable force” against Clark and were not justified in shooting him in the March 18 altercation.
“Stephon Clark never verbally threatened anyone, and he was unarmed when he was fatally shot multiple times, including numerous shots to his back, shots while he was going to the ground and shots after he had already went down to the ground. At the time of the shooting, Stephon Clark posed no imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to either the involved officers or any other person,” the claim states.
Clark’s death sparked a massive outcry in the weeks that followed and intensified already simmering tensions between the police and the city’s black community.
Video footage released by the Sacramento Police Department in April showed that officers waited almost five minutes after firing their weapons to approach Clark to deliver medical aid. Officers apparently were concerned that he was armed and playing dead.
Claims filed against municipalities are typically the first step before a lawsuit can be filed.