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If Stephon Clark's shooting was reasonable, police need a new definition of 'reasonable'

If Stephon Clark's shooting was reasonable, police need a new definition of 'reasonable'
A protester holds a photo of Stephon Clark during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Sacramento on March 22, 2018. (Justin Sullivan / TNS)

To the editor: Two Sacramento Police Department officers fired 20 shots at and killed Stephon Clark. They stated they saw a flash of light near Clark’s hand, and concluded he had a gun. Clark carried only a cellphone. However, Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Ann Marie Schubert said the officers acted lawfully.

In 1999, four plainclothes New York officers sprayed 41 shots at and killed Amadou Diallo. They mistook his wallet for a gun. A jury acquitted them of second-degree murder.

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The current default defense, based on the Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in Graham vs. Connor, has birthed so many monstrosities. It’s so elastic that it incentivizes the use of force by police. Officers don’t have have to face an actual threat, but only admit they felt threatened, and they all do.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Clark’s brother support Assembly Bill 392, which would make it easier to prosecute police who shoot.

Marc D. Greenwood, Camp Hill, Ala.

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To the editor: From Eula May Love, who was killed in 1979 after two Los Angeles Police Department officers fired 12 shots at her, to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to Clark in Sacramento, isn’t it time we make “combat fire” a thing of the past?

We aren’t in combat. We need a new policy on the use of force by police officers.

Love had a boning knife in her hand when she was shot from about 10 feet away, Brown was unarmed and Clark had no weapon when he was killed in darkness. Nothing has changed, and Love’s death was 40 years ago.

Kevin Park, Mission Hills

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