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US California police shooting of unarmed black man forcing look at policies

07:26  24 march  2018
07:26  24 march  2018 Source:   reuters.com

Police shot and killed an unarmed black man in his own backyard. All he was holding was a cellphone.

  Police shot and killed an unarmed black man in his own backyard. All he was holding was a cellphone. Officers say they mistook Stephon Clark’s cellphone for a gun. Activists want more answers. Police killings of unarmed black men helped fuel the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Now a new tragedy — the shooting death of an unarmed black man in his own backyard — is raising new questions about how much things have changed, if at all. Police killings of unarmed black men helped fuel the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Now a new tragedy — the shooting death of an unarmed black man in his own backyard — is raising new questions about how much things have changed, if at all.

A police officer points his weapon in this still image captured from police bodycam video footage released by Sacramento Police Department © REUTERS A police officer points his weapon in this still image captured from police bodycam video footage released by Sacramento Police Department

Did police tell an unarmed black man who they were before shooting him to death in a dark backyard in Sacramento, California? That question is forcing an examination of policies dictating when and how police identify themselves while encountering suspects.

Two Sacramento police officers, responding to a report of someone shattering car windows, killed Stephon Alonzo Clark, 22, on Sunday in a hail of bullets.

Police video has shown the officers chasing Clark around the side of his grandparents' house, yelling "Show me your hands" and "Gun" before firing. Police said they believed Clark held a gun, but it turned out to be a mobile phone.

Fired Police Officer Who Killed Unarmed Black Man to Get Back Pay

  Fired Police Officer Who Killed Unarmed Black Man to Get Back Pay (CINCINNATI) — The University of Cincinnati has agreed to pay about $344,000 in back wages and legal fees to a white police officer the school fired after he fatally shot a black unarmed motorist. The school on Thursday announced the settlement of a union grievance brought on behalf of Ray Tensing for his 2015 firing following his indictment on murder charges. The charges were dropped last year after two juries deadlocked. The Fraternal Order of Police had challenged Tensing’s firing, saying he shouldn’t have been removed from the university’s police force before the case was resolved. Tensing shot Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate in 2015. The shooting is among numerous cases nationwide that have called attention to how police deal with blacks.

The release of the video late on Wednesday sparked street protests. Clark's family, through their attorney Benjamin Crump, disputed the police account that Clark was breaking windows.

Many protesters have said police did not appear to have identified themselves when they confronted Clark on that dark night as he stood in his grandparents' backyard. On the video, the officers cannot be heard saying they are police.

"He (Clark) didn't make any threats against the police, there is no evidence he committed a crime, there was no warning from the police, there was no identification from the police," Crump said.

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

Fired officer who killed unarmed black man to get back pay

  Fired officer who killed unarmed black man to get back pay CINCINNATI — A white police officer fired after he fatally shot a black unarmed motorist will get about $344,000 in back pay and legal fees from the University of Cincinnati, the school said Thursday.The university is paying Ray Tensing to settle a union grievance brought on his behalf for his 2015 firing, following his indictment on murder charges. The charges were dropped last year after two juries deadlocked.The Fraternal Order of Police had challenged Tensing's firing, saying he shouldn't have been removed from the university's police force before the case was resolved.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said this week that city officials would examine police protocol for how they identify themselves in such cases.

a close up of a train station: Stephon Clark is visible on the ground after two police officers shot him, in this still image captured from police aerial video by Sacramento Police Department © REUTERS Stephon Clark is visible on the ground after two police officers shot him, in this still image captured from police aerial video by Sacramento Police Department

"I have a 21-year-old son and I never had to teach him the importance of holding his hands high if he is ever stopped by a police officer," Steinberg said Friday on Facebook. "No words can describe how it must feel for an African-American family who has to teach that lesson as a reality of growing up black."

Sacramento police guidelines posted on the department's website do not specify that officers must identify themselves when encountering suspects. Sacramento police spokeswoman Linda Matthew said she did not believe such a policy existed.

"What happened to Stephon Clark was plain wrong," Sacramento mayor says

  "Here's the common element between the community and the officers is fear. It is fear," Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said . "It's wrong, because a 22-year-old man should not die in that way."Clark's grandmother stood with national civil rights leaders on Monday and described the moment he died in a hail of police gunfire."All that I heard was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom," said Sequita Thompson.Those shots were captured on police body cam video. Clark was in his grandmother's backyard when he was killed."They didn't have to kill him like that," Thompson said.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said that policies for departments vary across the country, but it would be impractical under such circumstances to expect officers to identify themselves.

"If you're in a chase and everybody's running, there isn't a lot of talking back and forth going on," he said.

The Sacramento shooting could lead some police departments to change their rules, but such policies can be difficult to follow in the heat of the moment, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

a close up of a logo: Muzzle flash is visible as police officers open fire in this still image captured from police bodycam video footage released by Sacramento Police Department © REUTERS Muzzle flash is visible as police officers open fire in this still image captured from police bodycam video footage released by Sacramento Police Department

"It won't surprise me if some departments add some other specific rule after this, but the cops are already weighed down with rules," he said.

Sacramento police spokeswoman Matthew said Clark could have assumed police were in the area because a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter was circling overhead.

"The officers were in full uniform and the suspect fled from them," she said.

Investigators are looking into whether the officers, who were searching the neighborhood for several minutes for a suspect, announced to Clark that they were police, Matthew said.

"With this incident and with every incident we have, we always look for ways in which we can improve," Matthew said. "However, this was very rapidly evolving."

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Ben Klayman, Toni Reinhold)

Family of unarmed man killed by police to file federal lawsuit .
Police shot at Stephon Clark 20 times in his grandmother's backyard, believing the cell phone he was holding was a gun . The Reverend Al Sharpton criticized the White House for calling the shooting a "local matter." After the funeral, Clark family attorney Ben Crump called for peace."Stephon Clark did not choose violence that night," Crump said. "We must choose nonviolence to make sure that we protest in our most productive way possible.

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