SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Many questions still remain about the Sacramento Police officers’ actions when they shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard.
Did they act within the scope of the law, or was the shooting unjustified? A local attorney is weighing in, highlighting some stand-out seconds in police footage of the fatal killing, that he says could shape this case in court.
Just 17 seconds passed from the time police first made contact with Clark and when shots were fired.
Sacramento defense attorney Mark Reichel said, “In court what we’re gonna look at is, did they act reasonably in all the circumstances?”
In both body cam and helicopter surveillance footage, there are some critical moments that Reichel says set the tone for the tragedy, and shows what could have been done differently.
“At this point, I don’t think they can fire and be protected by the law,” said Reichel.
Reichel first points out that he thinks the officers may have panicked. Helicopter footage shows the moment officers first saw Clark face-to-face.
“The fight or flee instinct has kicked in. He pulls his partner back, and one of them yells ‘gun!'”
But it’s what officers didn’t yell out to Clark that Reichel says will be crucial in this case.
“One command that they forgot was to ‘get down’ or ‘stay there,’ or if he’s moving, it’s ‘do not advance.’ ”
The officers did order Clark to show his hands, and the footage appears to show he did, but also shows as he starts to walk toward them.
“I’m confident it’s the advancing that spooked them, and the immediate action was to pull. That’s how fast the brain works,” said Reichel.
That’s also the way law enforcement training works, which Reichel says is a problem in itself. Even though officers thought Clark had a gun, he says it appears they didn’t give the father of two a fair chance, using unclear commands.
So, how would this hold up in court? Reichel says it’s unlikely these officers would be charged criminally, but says in his opinion, there could be a case of negligence in civil court.
Meanwhile, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn is reminding that there are still a lot of unknown facts in this case, that the department hopes to get to the bottom of during a thorough investigation.