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Gun violence in the US

California city on edge for funeral of man shot in his grandparents’ yard by police who mistook his cellphone for a gun

The death of Stephon Clark on March 18 has roiled Sacramento, with protesters disrupting traffic, two NBA games and a city council meeting

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 3:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 6:38am

A 22-year-old, unarmed black man shot to death by police in his grandparents’ backyard in Sacramento, California, will be buried on Thursday - and city officials are girding for more protests.

The Reverend Al Sharpton plans to give the eulogy at funeral services for Stephon Clark at the Bayside of South Sacramento Church. He has called the shooting an “atrocity” that shows the urgent need for intervention against police misconduct and a thorough investigation.

Some mourners at Wednesday’s wake predicted increased unrest beyond the unruly but mostly non-violent protests that have disrupted traffic and two professional basketball games since the March 18 shooting.

The Reverend Ray Morsheth of Sacramento Revival Centre said he plans to stay away from the funeral for fear things could turn ugly, while the Reverend Phillip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Centre said it should be a time for peace and forgiveness.

“I am very concerned about the climate and what’s going on right now,” Goudeaux said of the high emotions since Clark’s death.

Two Sacramento police officers who were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows fatally shot Clark. 

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Video of the incident released by police shows a man later identified as Clark running into the backyard where officers fired 20 rounds at him after screaming “gun, gun, gun.”

It turned out Clark was holding a cellphone.

Some mourners attending Wednesday’s wake called for officers to face criminal charges or wore black shirts calling for justice.

The family’s raw grief was on display when Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, had to be physically restrained while confronting members of the media gathered outside the wake. 

The outburst came a day after he disrupted a Sacramento City Council meeting and screamed his brother’s name at Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

On Wednesday, Stevante Clark told Sacramento TV station ABC 10 he was sorry about his behaviour.

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“What I want to do, first off, is apologise to the mayor,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine someone disrespecting me like that in front of my family. He’s [a] grown man.

“He deserves respect. I want to apologise sincerely to him, you know. I embarrassed myself in front of my mother.”

Shernita Crosby, Stephon Clark’s aunt, said the family isn’t “mad at all the law enforcement.”

“We’re not trying to start a riot,” she said. “What we want the world to know is that we got to stop this because black lives matter.”

A cousin, Suzette Clark, said that the family wants Stephon remembered as an outgoing, funny, handsome, loving father of two young sons – “more than just a hashtag.”

“I just hope it can bring people together,” she said of the two-hour funeral. “Emotions are heightened, but I just hope everyone comes and shows compassion.”

Stevante Clark also told ABC 10 he is grateful for protests over his brother’s death.

On Wednesday, about 50 protesters took over the intersection near the Sacramento district attorney’s office as part of a protest organised by the local Black Lives Matter chapter to urge the district attorney to file charges against the officers who shot Clark. 

The California attorney general’s office on Tuesday joined the investigation, a move Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he hopes will bring “faith and transparency” to a case that he said has sparked “extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city.”