Readers React: Why did the Sacramento police officers feel a need to fire 20 shots at Stephon Clark?

Mourners embrace as they wait to enter Stephon Clark's funeral in Sacramento on March 29.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: The investigation of Stephon Clark’s killing by Sacramento Police Department officers must do the following:

First, determine if it was reasonable that an objective police officer should react with deadly force in the situation as presented by the facts. Second, if there was reasonable belief by one officer that he feared for his life and thus fired the first shot, determine if the subsequent shots fired were equally justified.

The facts indicate that it might have been reasonable for an officer to have fired the first shot, as the cellphone in Clark’s hand might very well have been perceived as a weapon. Juries do not like to convict police officers for split-second decisions that have a shred of justification, and officers in these situations invariably state they feared for their lives.


But there were 20 shots fired at Clark. At what point were their enough bullets fired to eliminate any fear by the officers? Furthermore, did any of the officers shoot only because they were reacting to the chaos of the event?

These last two lines of inquiry may be good causes for a civil action.

Norwood Price, Burbank

The writer is a retired attorney.


To the editor: Several letter writers criticized the Sacramento officers who shot Clark.

I am the mother of a law enforcement person and would like to say that before members of the public criticize police, they should spend a night or two walking in their shoes and find out just what they have to endure and the judgments they must make. Perhaps then they would be better equipped to say how wrong they think the officers are.

They have no idea what the officers’ jobs are like or how their minds work when they are on duty and must make snap decisions. Just remember: The officers are out there putting their lives on the line every time they put on that uniform to protect our lives.

Justine Cameron, Los Osos, Calif.

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