Stephon Clark police shooting: New videos confirm delay in medical aid, show more muted body cameras

The Sacramento Police Department on Monday released a trove of new audio and video material that further details officers’ and fire officials’ controversial medical response after Stephon Clark was shot and killed in his grandparents’ backyard last month.

Clark, 23, died March 18 after two police officers searching for a vandalism suspect opened fire on him as he stood on his grandparents’ back patio. Clark was hit by eight of the 20 bullets the officers fired, six of them from behind.

The new footage confirms that Clark lay face-down, unresponsive and dying, on the ground for more than five minutes before officers approached him to cuff his hands and begin medical treatment. A pathologist who conducted an independent autopsy on Clark’s body last month found that it took him between three to 10 minutes to succumb to his injuries, which caused massive internal bleeding.

Credit: Family photo via AP

Credit: Family photo via AP

The new videos also show that multiple officers muted the microphones on their body cameras as they investigated the bullet-riddled scene.

The Sacramento Bee reported that one officer's actions, discovered in the first set of videos released last month, prompted Sacramento police officials to change departmental policy on the muting of body cameras.

"Any time an officer deactivates or mutes their camera, they must now audibly record on that camera the reason for the deactivation and muting before ever muting, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told the City Council last week, according to CNN.

Officers are now required to keep their cameras and microphones rolling, except in special circumstances. Those circumstances include when they are talking to medical personnel, when they are working with a victim of sexual assault or rape or when a victim or witness refuses to give them a recorded statement, Hahn said.

Officers will now also need a supervisor’s approval to mute or deactivate a camera.

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The videos released last month depict the shooting itself, as well as the events leading up to it. The newly released footage shows other officers responding to the scene and their actions from their arrival to the moment Clark is pronounced dead by Sacramento fire medics.

The new material consists of 23 in-car camera videos, 28 body camera videos, two 911 transfer calls from the California Highway Patrol and the remainder of the footage shot by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter circling overhead, a police news release said.

Find all of the videos and audio files released by Sacramento police officials, including the new files, here. Warning: The footage contains violence and explicit language that may not be suitable for all readers. 

The previous footage from the helicopter’s infrared camera shows the officers shoot Clark shortly after he climbed a neighbor’s fence and entered his family’s yard. Body cameras from the two officers who fired at Clark also depicted the shooting in detail.

The officers said they saw what looked like a gun in Clark’s hand. Their body camera footage shows, however, that Clark was unarmed and carried a cellphone when he was shot.

The new videos show from different angles officers’ decision to hold off approaching Clark, as they debate among themselves whether it is safe to advance toward his motionless body. At least one officer can be heard saying that he cannot see the gun Clark was incorrectly believed to be carrying.

The body camera footage shows that Clark’s iPhone was under his head and could not be seen until the officers got closer to where he lay.

As in the previous footage, the new body camera videos show officers calling out to Clark, but not getting a response.

“Hey, can you hear us?” one officer yells.

“We need to know if you’re OK,” a female officer says. “We need to get you medics, but we can’t go over there to get you help unless we know you don’t have your weapon.”

After multiple failed attempts to get a response, the officers approached Clark’s body. It took them about a minute to handcuff Clark and search his pockets before they began performing CPR.

An officer is seen in the videos doing chest compressions, his own body camera jostling around as he tries to pump life back into Clark’s body.

“Come on, buddy. Wake up. Breathe for me,” the officer doing compressions says.

Credit: (Sacramento Police Department)

Credit: (Sacramento Police Department)

Another officer is depicted hurrying back to a vehicle to grab a mask, which she brings to the backyard so an officer can breathe for Clark.

Fire rescue personnel were cleared to enter the scene about a minute after CPR was begun. By that point, Clark appeared to have already died.

“We’re fixed and dilated here,” a fire medic is heard saying in one of the videos, referring to Clark’s pupils, which were not responding to light.

“Nonreactive?” another person at the scene asks.

“Yes,” the medic responds.

One of the medics then calls Clark’s time of death: “21:42,” military time for 9:42 p.m.

Sgt. Vance Chandler, a Sacramento police spokesman, told the Bee that the internal investigation into the shooting will look at whether the officers' delay in rendering medical aid was appropriate.

Police training expert and Plumas County Deputy Ed Obayashi told the newspaper that he believes the time frame was appropriate under the circumstances, in which the officers could not see both of Clark’s hands.

"They approached him as soon as safely practical," Obayashi told the Bee. "From what I am seeing and hearing, the officers in my opinion exercised good tactical decision-making."

The department is also investigating the muting of the body cameras, Chandler said.

Clark’s family, members of which have led protests in his name, is heading to New York City on Tuesday to take part in the 2018 National Action Network Convention, hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network. Sharpton delivered a eulogy at Clark’s funeral last month.

They will be accompanied by Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family since the shooting.

Crump responded to Monday’s release of additional video files by saying that Clark’s shooting has been “shrouded in confusion and misinformation” from the beginning.

“The actions of the Sacramento Police Department -- before and after the shooting -- have left us all suspicious,” Crump said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. “Today, those suspicions were confirmed. This latest horrifying video evidence further proves the reckless, irresponsible and deadly behavior of the police officers involved.

“Though nothing can bring Stephon back to his family, we will not rest until we see those responsible held accountable and clear action taken to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future.”

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