Stephon Clark, the unarmed 22-year-old killed by Sacramento police officers earlier this month, was shot eight times, with most of the bullets hitting him in the back, according to an independent autopsy requested by his family’s attorneys.
These bullets - some of which struck Clark in the back, neck and thigh - caused extensive bleeding, said Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist. At least one pierced Clark’s lung, he said.
“His death wasn’t instantaneous,” Omalu, who is known for his role in highlighting concussive damage to football players, said at a news conference Friday.
Omalu announced his findings amid continuing public anger over Clark’s death. A day earlier, hundreds of mourners gathered to grieve for Clark at an emotional funeral that alluded to the tensions lingering in the community.
Clark, a black man and a father of two, was fatally shot on March 18 by Sacramento police officers. Police in the California capital said they were responding that night to a call about someone breaking into vehicles.
The shooting was captured on footage recorded by body cameras and a helicopter video. This footage showed Clark running to the backyard of his grandmother’s house where officers fired 20 times at him. Officials have not said how many times they believe Clark was struck.
The officers said they fired thinking Clark had a gun, but police have since said he was only holding an iPhone.
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The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office did not immediately respond to a message seeking details on Clark’s autopsy Friday. County records showed only the date of Clark’s death and described him as a 22-year-old black man.
Clark is one of at least 269 people fatally shot by police so far this year, according to The Washington Post’s database tracking such deaths. Since The Post began to track these shootings in January 2015, the Sacramento police have fatally shot six people. Including Clark, five of the six have been black men.
The release of the video footage capturing Clark’s death has given way to repeated protests in Sacramento. Demonstrators have blocked fans from entering NBA games, marched on the city’s streets and gathered Tuesday night at a City Council meeting to protest there.
Stevonte Clark, wearing a shirt with his brother’s face on it, sat at the council’s dais during the meeting and chanted his brother’s name.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, in an interview the following day, said he was “extremely conscious” of the concerns many have expressed regarding police accountability in recent years.
“There is deep pain and anguish” in Sacramento, he said. “It’s our job to bear some of that pain, and to help translate the anguish and grieving and the historic pain [of black communities] into tangible and real change.”
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Clark’s family who spoke before Omalu on Friday, had called the independent autopsy a “solemn obligation.” He said Omalu’s findings contradicted the police narrative of Clark’s death, and Omalu said that Clark “was not facing the officers” when he was killed.
Clark’s relatives and civil rights leaders have called for full transparency in the investigation into his death as well as charges for the two officers involved.
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Just under 1,000 people are shot and killed by police officers each year, according to The Post’s database. Just a handful of those shootings each year lead to criminal charges, and convictions are even more rare, which has prompted intense criticism from civil rights activists across the country.
The Sacramento police department is conducting an investigation into Clark’s death, while the Sacramento County district attorney’s office is also conducting its own review.
Earlier this week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, D, and Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn announced that the state Department of Justice would provide independent oversight of the police investigation into the shooting.
That announcement came the same day that Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said his office would not pursue criminal charges against two Baton Rouge police officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling in 2016, one of many that have prompted intense protests nationwide in recent years.
Hahn said he had confidence in his department’s ability to investigate the shooting, but felt that given “the extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city,” it was best for the community and the police force alike to have the state step in.
“Our city is at a critical point right now, and I believe this will . . . help build faith and confidence in the investigation from our community,” Hahn said.
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The Post’s Alex Horton contributed to this report.