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Police muted their body cameras after shooting and killing unarmed black man in Sacramento

Police thought he had a gun. But he was only carrying a cell phone.

by Christianna Silva
Mar 22 2018, 4:25pm

Several minutes after Sacramento police fatally shot an unarmed black man in his own backyard on Sunday night, they muted their body cameras, body camera footage released on Wednesday by the department shows.

The officers, however, kept talking to each other and other bystanders for at least two minutes.

The Sacramento Police Department released the footage just days after two of its officers shot and killed the man, identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark by the Sacramento Bee, on Sunday. Initially, police thought the man had a gun. Then, the department said he had a “toolbar.” But he was only carrying a cell phone, according to a final clarification the department released on Tuesday.

The body-camera footage released on Thursday reveals the officers did initially consider the suspect armed and shot him within seconds of pursuing him into his grandparents’ backyard, where he also lived. The officers also appeared to mute the audio from their body cameras.

“There are a variety of reasons why officers have the opportunity to mute their body-worn cameras,” Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler told the Sacramento Bee. The department did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

The officers have not yet been identified and have been placed on paid administrative leave.

In addition to footage from two body cameras, the department also released helicopter footage and two audio recordings, including a 911 call and dispatch audio.

911 call

A neighbor called 911 on Sunday night when he saw what he described as a six-foot-tall, thin man wearing a hoodie breaking car windows, including the caller’s truck windows. The police department sent officers and a Sacramento Sheriff’s Department helicopter to investigate. The caller did not identify the suspect’s race.

Body camera footage

The body camera footage starts when the two officers are driving to the location of the 911 call. About 7 minutes and 30 seconds in, the officers begin chasing a suspect. At the time, he was running into the backyard of a home he shared with his grandparents and some of his siblings.

As the officer takes cover behind a wall, one yells, “Show me your hands! Gun!” One of the officers yells again, “Show me your hands! Gun, gun, gun!” and then an officer immediately shoots multiple rounds.

On the body camera footage, it’s difficult to see the suspect being shot in the dark. But video footage from the helicopter shows the suspect hitting the ground after the first few shots. The officers continued shooting him while he was lying on his stomach, until both officers shot a combined 20 rounds, the police department told the Sacramento Bee.

“You alright, you hit?” one officer asked on the body camera footage.

“Yeah, I’m good,” the other officer responded.

“He was still pointing when I saw again …. You alright, dude?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. I don’t think I’m hit or anything.”

They reloaded their guns.

Shortly after backup arrives, one officer says “Hey, mute.” Before the audio on their body cameras is turned off, he says, “Hey, you guys good?” The audio then stops, but the video continues for about two more minutes. The officers can be seen speaking to each other and at least one civilian before the video ends.

The department has more videos from other responding officers that will also be released soon, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Cover image: Screenshot from body camera footage at 10 minutes, 34 seconds, provided by the Sacramento Police Department.