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.

  1. Bob Smogango says:

    The problem is that Stephon was evading the police as they saw him in the driveway. if he hadn’t run away, then he would’ve been arrested, detained to see what he was doing, who he was, etc. etc. and I believe he was on probation (mentioned in a Sac Bee article) for something like firearm and drug possession. I don’t know if that was the case, but he was doing several things wrong that escalated matters greatly by evading the police.

    Do I think they should have fired upon him? In hindsight no, but I was in the situation where I was making a split decision based on THINKING he had a gun.. If they believe they saw a gun and they feel they had the right to open fire, then it’s, unfortunately,, sounds justified. However, since we are all looking at the footage with a lot more time to analyze things, we don’t know what it’s like in the cop’s situation where they are making split decisions about someone that’s evading them and they got a call of burglary in the neighborhood. It’s a tough situation any way you look at it. It’s because on one hand he didn’t have a weapon so he wasn’t a threat, however he’s also evading the cops and obviously doing something illegal or at least the prime suspect. But people need to realize that cops in that situation where things are happening at nighttime where visibility isn’t 100%, and things are progressing at a split second rate, they can make bad judgement calls. That’s what happens. It’s not like Stephon was being cooperative either. He was the source of the situation escalating the events.

    I think it’s a case where people are overreacting making this out to be a cops against Blacks and I don’t see how that applies. It’s more Cops against someone that’s evading the cops that’s a prime suspect in a rash of burglaries, and in a split second saw a gun and reacted.

    What could have been done to prevent this?

    1. Stephon shouldn’t be out burglarizing the neighborhood, jumping fences in people’s backyards and evading the police as they saw him in the driveway. In this situation, he’s the original cause of this situation.
    2. If Stephon was on probation, then he shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING that could be construed as a crime. Evading the police is actually a crime. If he wasn’t doing anything illegal, then why was he jumping fences in people’s backyards and why was he running away from the police when they saw him in the driveway? Only guilty people evade cops.
    3. The helicopter, since it was there, should have shown their light on the subject and the cops should have simply taken a minute to collect themselves and should have requested to Stephon to stop, put his hands in the air and drop anything he has in his hands on the ground and then approach when he’s less of a threat.

    I think putting all the blame on the cops is just a cop out because Stephon should NOT have been jumping fences in people’s backyards and evading the cops. That just escalates things and HE was the one that was escalating the situation.

    It sucks for someone to get shot to death when all they had was a smartphone, but Stephon escalated the situation and he was THE prime suspect in a rash of burglaries and he was evading the cops. Pulling the race card is total nonsense. Just because he was black doesn’t mean it was the reason why they shot him. If Stephon didn’t run away when they saw him in the driveway, then he’d still be alive, and he’d just be sitting in a jail cell for the crimes they got him on. Putting Stephon on a pedastal isn’t right either. He wasn’t a Saint in this matter and people need to admit to that fact.

    Hopefully, the Police dept will learn from this and it doesn’t happen again, but it was a situation that in that split second, the cops made a bad decision. But was it legal? If it was legal for them to do it, then it was legal for them to do it.

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