Man shot to death by Sacramento police in own family’s backyard had a cellphone, not a gun

SACRAMENTO -- The man police shot and killed in South Sacramento Sunday night, identified as 23-year-old Stephon Clark, was unarmed when police opened fire, authorities say.

Police say officers responded to reports that a man broke into at least three cars along 29th Street in the Meadowview area. A statement released Monday night says police believe the damage was caused by Clark.

Investigators say a police helicopter spotted Clark in the backyard of an occupied home and told officers he appeared to have broken a sliding glass door. Deputies initially thought he was using a tool bar to break the glass, but officers later found only a cinder block and a strip of aluminum that looked like something used to hang a gutter, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The man then went back around to the front of the home and appeared to look into another car, according to the release.

Officers confronted Clark, who had run to the backyard of a family member's home. Police said Clark extended his arms forward toward officers with what they believed to be a gun.

"He looked back at our officers and faced them. [He] had something, an object in his hand, and pointed it at our officers," said Sacramento Police Sgt. Vance Chandler. "And at that time our officers believed it was a firearm, and out of fear for their own lives they fired their service weapons."

Both officers fired 10 times each, according to the paper, but it's not clear how many bullets struck Clark. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Sacramento Police Department reported Monday that no firearms were located at the scene. Instead, investigators found a cellphone near Clark's body. The two officers didn't move for five minutes while they waited for backup, according to the police department spokesman.

Clark's family says he was a stay-at-home father of two young sons, ages 1 and 3. He was killed in the backyard of his grandparents' home, where his family says he was spending the night. Clark's brother, Stevante, told The Sacramento Bee that Stephon had been released from county jail several weeks ago, but it's not clear why he was arrested.

The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is being investigated, which is standard department protocol.

"An innocent black man, going to his grandma and grandpa's house where he lived," said Clark's aunt, Shernita Crosby. "How are you going to explain that? How are you going to justify that?"

Protestors Monday night joined Clark's family blocks away from the home.

The family disputes that he was confronting the officers at all, saying instead he was shot as he was moving away.

"In the back, so that means he was running," Crosby told KTXL. "So that means that he was probably saying, 'This is my grandmama's house. This is where I live. Leave me alone.'"

The family of Stephen Clark has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses.