U.S. and World Politics

Crime of Being a Young Black Male

Twenty-two-year-old Stephon Clark shot 20 times by police while in his own backyard holding a cell phone

By Abby Zimet

March 21, 2018—Police in Sacramento killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark, nicknamed Zoe, Sunday night as he stood in his own backyard behind the house he shared with his grandparents and siblings. Police were responding to a call about someone breaking car windows in the neighborhood when they confronted Clark; because they “feared for their safety,” two officers shot him 20 times—ten times each—within seconds of shouting for him to show his hands and then frantically screaming “Gun! Gun!” After they murdered him, they muted the audio on their body cameras and talked for five more minutes before approaching Clark and handcuffing him as he lay on the ground. They offered no medical help. Once reinforcements arrived, they questioned Clark’s grandmother for several hours before telling her that her grandson was dead. He left behind two sons, three and one-years-old.

Newly released footage from the officers’ cameras and an overhead helicopter shows a harrowing scene. Police later said the two cops believed Clark had a gun in his hands. Then they said they thought he had a “tool bar.” Then, an “object” he “extended in front of him.” In fact, Clark had a cell phone. His family said the house’s doorbell was broken; Clark may have been calling to let him in. He was the 17th person killed by Sacramento police since 2016; the deaths are listed on the department’s website under the tagline, “Making Sacramento the safest big city in California.” A GoFundMe page to help Clark’s grandmother pay for his funeral celebrates a “loving father, grandson, son, brother, boyfriend and friend to many” who was “UNJUSTLY killed in cold blood (for) the crime of being a young Black male.” On social media, many grieved, raged, and denounced this country’s grim disparities by citing one name: Nikolas Cruz, who is still alive. From one mourner: “You can’t possibly be more tired of hearing this story than we are of telling it.”

Common Dreams, March 21, 2018