SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Questions are swirling over why Sacramento police officers muted their body cameras minutes after shots were fired.
“We will stand up for Stephon, we will speak up for Stephon and we will fight for Stephon until we get justice for Stephon,” said family attorney Benjamin Crump.
Sacramento police say as part of their commitment to be transparent, they released the body cam videos within 72 hours of the shooting. And while many in the community are grateful for that, the videos are raising a lot of questions.
During an emotionally charged press conference Monday, Sacramento’s NAACP chapter president highlighted a question that has left many in the community unsettled.
“Why was the audio turned off after the shooting? What was the protocol for turning off the audio?” Betty Williams said.
Williams is referring to a moment captured in the videos roughly seven minutes after Sacramento police fatally shot unarmed Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard.
In both body camera videos an officer can be heard saying, “hey, mute,” then the video goes silent and officers talk among themselves. You can also hear one officer saying “you guys good?” before the audio cuts out.
“That creates an additional level of mistrust as if we need to hide something,” said Williams.
“We’re looking at what was said prior to the mute button being hit,” said Sgt. Vance Chandler with the Sacramento Police Department.
Police say it’s under investigation why the mute button was used. But, they add, there are a wide variety of reasons when officers have the ability to mute or deactivate the body cam altogether.
“For example, tactical consideration, confidential information being shared, briefings between officers. There are a lot of instances and we will look to determine if it was an appropriate response to using the mute button,” said Sgt. Chandler.
“There are other reasons they can turn it off as well, it’s not well defined and needs to be honed in a bit,” said Richaed Owen, co-founder of Law Enforcement Accountability Directive.
Richard Owen was one of several leaders in the black community fielding questions from the public Monday night at a KDEE radio station. He says the muting of the body cameras raises serious questions and adds to the community distrust.
“The first thing you do when you arrive on scene is tell the officers to mute their mics? That’s very suspicious,” Owen said.
Police say they got these body cameras less than a year ago and are still learning how to properly use the technology. As part of the investigation, they are talking to everybody, to find out what was said, and if it was appropriate
Sacramento police say their deactivation policies are outlined in this general order posted online.