SACRAMENTO, Calif.,(Reuters) – The mayor of Sacramento, California, said yesterday he was “horrified” by video showing police officers firing 20 gunshots at an unarmed black man who was slain in the backyard shooting.
Police in Sacramento, the state capital, said the video from body cameras worn by officers involved in Sunday night’s confrontation showed the victim, Stephon Clark, 22, holding an object that was later found to be a cell phone.
The video was released by police late on Wednesday, and by Thursday it had gone viral on the internet.
More than 200 demonstrators gathered on Thursday to denounce the shooting in a protest organized by the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests were orderly, and police even allowed a group of demonstrators to march up an entrance ramp to an interstate highway at the height of rush hour and block traffic.
Organizers described shooting deaths of black people by police as disturbingly commonplace.
“Like any compassionate person, I was horrified by the death of a young Sacramento man who we later found out had two kids,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at a news conference. “What was my reaction? It was horrible.”
Protesters marched into the city hall lobby shouting, “It’s a phone, not a gun” and demanded a meeting with the police chief.
“I have four grandbabies who are black, and I don’t want them taken,” said protester Tami Collins, 47, who is white.
The Clark shooting was the latest in a series of killings of unarmed black men by police across the United Stated since 2014 that has sparked a national debate about racial bias in the criminal justice system and the use of lethal force.
In Sacramento, police said in a statement that Sunday’s shooting occurred when officers responded to a report that someone had broken car windows in a residential area. Police later found at least three damaged vehicles.
Deputies in a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter saw a suspect shatter the sliding glass door of a house and then jump a fence to enter the yard of another house, police said.
Police released infrared video from the helicopter that showed the man hopping the fence.
Other video from police body cameras shows two officers run after Clark with their flashlights and turn the corner of a house to face him in the backyard, yelling: “Show me your hands” and “gun” before they shoot him.
The officers had seen Clark “advance forward with his arms extended and holding an object,” which they believed was a gun, before they opened fire 20 times, police said.
Officers then waited five minutes, until backup arrived, before approaching Clark to help him, police said.
After the shooting, investigators found a cell phone near Clark but no firearm, police said.
The mayor said the city will review police protocol for aiding a person who is lying still.
The shooting was in the backyard of Clark’s grandparents’ home, where he had been staying, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, which spoke to his relatives.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office was investigating the shooting.