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Don Clark Sr. was sleeping when officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department barged into his home, detonated a “flash-bang” diversionary device to disorient him, and allegedly shot the unarmed Black grandfather at least nine times, according to a new federal lawsuit filed by his family.
The officers were there to carry out a surprise no-knock warrant one evening in February 2017. But their raid was built on false information, according to the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday.
It’s the same policing tactic that contributed to the botched narcotics raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March 2020—more than three years after Clark bled to death on his bedroom floor—and put the entire practice of cops swarming someone’s home unannounced into question nationwide.
Now, Clark’s children are saying that officers secured the no-knock warrant that led to his death based on false allegations attributed to confidential informants, according to the lawsuit, which identifies Officer Thomas Strode as the one who allegedly got the warrant without probable cause. Those allegations wrongfully said that Clark “had sold illegal drugs and harbored both illegal drugs and illegal firearms in his home,” something that his family adamantly denies.
“A modicum of investigation into Mr. Clark, such as actually observing him near or around his home, looking up his employment history, or attempting a controlled drug purchase, would have shown Defendant Strode that Mr. Clark was innocent, and that a ‘no knock’ warrant was not warranted,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Clark’s family.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment on the family’s lawsuit Thursday, citing pending litigation. At the time of the 2017 shooting, police said they were fired upon when executing the search warrant and that they’d found drugs and handguns at Clark’s home, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The family has disputed those claims, according to the Associated Press. Furthermore, the lawsuit notes that “according to those who were caretakers and regular visitors to Mr. Clark’s home, including Don Jr. and Mr. Clark’s home health aide, there were never any illegal drugs” at his address.
“I want them to get rid of that ‘no-knock’ warrant thing. I feel it shouldn’t exist… and I feel by them doing that, they would be saving a lot of people’s lives,” Sherrie Clark-Torrence, Clark’s eldest daughter, said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “And, that they would take fault for what they did, not just to my dad but to everybody that they’ve done this to.”
The 63-year-old spent his final day on Earth—February 21, 2017—trekking to a doctor’s visit via bus, since his son, Don Clark Jr., was unable to take him at the time, according to the lawsuit. Afterward, Clark was exhausted and went to bed—something he typically did at 8 p.m. or earlier, according to the lawsuit.
Unbeknownst to him, though, officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s SWAT team descended on his street as he retreated for the night. Clark, who had significant hearing loss, managed to sleep through other raids conducted on nearby homes the same night, according to the suit.
That was until officers rammed in Clark’s door and jarred him awake. They then lobbed a flash-bang device inside and rushed into his house, allegedly without announcing themselves or giving Clark any sort of direction, according to the lawsuit. One of those officers, Nicholas Manasco, then put at least nine bullets in Clark’s body without a warning, “nearly ripping his forearm from his elbow joint,” according to the lawsuit.
Officers didn’t try to stanch the blood coming from Clark, according to the lawsuit. It was only after “crucial minutes had passed” that one of the cops called for emergency medical services.
“The wall and dresser and the floor were so covered with blood, at that time I knew,” Don Clark Jr. said of his father’s death, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They didn’t even have to tell me.”
Editor's note: The headline for this article has been updated to clarify the circumstances surrounding Don Clark Jr.'s death.