U.S. News

Family plans autopsy for black man shot by Sacramento police

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - An independent autopsy is planned of the unarmed black man fatally shot by police officers in the backyard of his grandparents’ house in Sacramento, California, the family’s attorney said on Monday.

Two officers, responding to a report of someone shattering car windows on Sunday night, shot Stephon Alonzo Clark 20 times. The encounter was captured on video, which was released on Wednesday and sparked several days of protest.

“We have the solemn obligation in preparing for an independent autopsy to go view Stephon’s body,” attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters on Monday.

The family, which disputes police accounts that Clark, 23, was breaking car windows, plans to file a lawsuit against the city, but did not discuss the matter on Monday.

“There will be a lawsuit. That’s why he’s here,” Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, said about Crump.

Crump had represented the family of Michael Brown, the black teenager whose 2014 shooting death by police in Ferguson, Missouri, near St. Louis, sparked nationwide protests.

Since Brown’s death, a series of killings of unarmed black men by police across the United Stated has fueled a nationwide debate about racial bias and the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson, in whose backyard Clark was fatally shot, spoke briefly to reporters on Monday, asking why police did not shoot Clark in the arm or leg, or instead use dogs or a stun gun to subdue him.

“They didn’t have to kill him like that,” Thompson said, wiping away tears. “They didn’t have to shoot him that many times.”

“I want justice for my baby,” she added. “My grandson was 23 years old. And now my great-grandbabies don’t have their daddy.”

Clark was a father of two.

Huffman, who has praised Sacramento police for releasing the video and how they dealt with protests, called on them to release the records of the officers involved in the shooting.

When the officers confronted Clark in the backyard, he was holding an object they feared was a firearm and they shot him 20 times, police said. It was later discovered he only had a cell phone.

Sacramento police, who have said Clark was 22 while his family puts his age at 23, have not released the names of the two officers who opened fire, but they have been placed on leave. One officer is white and the other is black, police said.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Leslie Adler