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Al Sharpton will attend funeral of Stephon Clark, unarmed man killed in Sacramento police shooting

A Black Lives Matter protester holds her hands up during a demonstration Friday night as part of continuing protests over the shooting death of an unarmed black man by Sacramento police.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday said he was “alarmed” by the shooting death in Sacramento of an unarmed African American man by police, as an attorney for the man’s family disputed police accounts that he was a suspected vandal.

Sharpton said he planned to attend the funeral Thursday of Stephon Clark, 22, who was gunned down in his backyard March 18. Police believed Clark was armed with a gun, but only a cellphone was recovered at the scene.

Clark’s death sparked tension in the state capital Friday night as protesters clashed with police in riot gear, capping a week of unrest during which protesters briefly shut down Interstate 5 and blocked access to a Sacramento Kings basketball game at Golden 1 Center.

“Certainly this case has not gotten the national attention that I think it deserves,” Sharpton said in a segment on his MSNBC show PoliticsNation, criticizing Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions for not addressing police reform when he spoke to a black law enforcement group in Alabama last week. “Twenty shots at an unarmed man. I immediately was alarmed by this.”

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Appearing on Sharpton’s show, Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Clark’s family, called the shooting a “tragic senseless killing.”

“He made no threat against the police, and the police offered no warning to him. They didn’t identify themselves,” Crump said.

In a separate interview with Reuters last week, Crump disputed police accounts leading up to the shooting that implied Clark had been breaking windows in the neighborhood. He said that police had not been honest with his family, initially telling them Clark had a crowbar when the only item found on him was a cellphone.

“This family completely rejects anything that the Sacramento Police Department tried to claim to justify this execution of their loved one,” Crump said.

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The incident began when Sacramento police officers responded to the 7500 block of 29th Street around 9:15 p.m. after receiving a call that a 6-foot-1 man wearing a black hoodie and dark pants was breaking into vehicles, authorities said. The caller said the man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard, according to the Police Department.

A Sheriff’s Department helicopter circling overhead spotted a man in a backyard about 9:25 p.m. and directed police officers toward him, authorities said. Deputies told police that the man had picked up a “toolbar” and broken a window to a home.

The man then was seen running south, toward the front of the house, where he stopped and was looking into another car, police said. Following deputies’ directions, officers entered the frontyard of a home and saw the man along the side of the residence.

Police said that the officers ordered the man to stop and show his hands, but that he ran toward the back of the home. They chased him to the backyard, where, authorities say, he turned and advanced toward the officers “while holding an object which was extended in front of him.”

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“The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them. Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect multiple times,” the Police Department said in a prepared statement.

Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.

Before their game Sunday at Golden 1 Center, Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics players announced that they would wear warm-up T-shirts bearing Clark’s name. The black shirts have the words “Accountability. We Are One” on the front and “Stephon Clark” on the back.

One issue that has received scrutiny is a moment in the police videos when an officer is heard saying, “Hey, mute,” before the sound cuts off.

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Sacramento’s police chief said the muting issue is part of the investigation, adding that “it builds suspicion.”

“That’s something we have to look at,” Chief Daniel Hahn told KCRA-TV.

In that same interview, Hahn described the shooting as “a tragic event for our entire community.”

Hahn said he did not know whether race played a role in the officers’ actions, adding: “I think race factors into almost everything in our country, whether it’s implicit bias, everything … I think it permeates everything.”

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

For more California news, follow me on Twitter @vicjkim


UPDATES:

3:40 p.m.: This article was updated with the issue of the muting of the police video and comments from the Sacramento police chief.

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This article was originally published at 1 p.m.


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