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Sacramento police waited to call for help after shooting Stephon Clark because they thought he was "pretending"

"Let's have the next unit get, just bring a non-lethal in case he's pretending," one officer said.

by Christianna Silva
Apr 17 2018, 4:19pm

When two Sacramento Police officers shot 22-year-old Stephon Clark seven times in the back in his own backyard, he didn’t die instantaneously. The officers, however, didn’t call for medical help right away — they thought he might be faking unconsciousness and still hiding a weapon.

Fifty-four video and audio clips — released Monday by the Sacramento Police Department, exactly one month after the shooting — reveal new details as to why the officers waited about five minutes before helping Clark. An independent autopsy revealed Clark didn’t die for between three and 10 minutes after being hit by the officers’ first bullets. Had help arrived sooner, Clark might have had a greater chance of surviving.

READ: Police shot Stephon Clark in the back 7 times, independent autopsy reveals

In fact, Sacramento Police Detective Edward Macaulay told VICE News the department is still investigating whether police acted quickly enough to begin lifesaving measures. “That’s part of our investigation,” Macaulay said.

The Sacramento officers were responding to 911 calls of someone breaking car windows in the neighborhood when they began chasing after Clark, who led them to his grandparents' backyard, where he lived, too. Officers said they thought he had a gun, but Clark was only holding a cell phone.

The footage released Monday shows that some minutes after Clark was shot, no officers had yet attempted to help him. One male officer who responded as backup asked if he had a gun. The two officers who shot Clark said they haven’t found a weapon yet.

“I don't see it,” one officer said. “He hasn't moved at all.”

“Hey! Can you hear us?” a male officer shouted at Clark.

“Police Department, can you hear us?” another male officer said.

“We need to know if you're OK,” a female officer said. “We need to get you medics, but we can't go over to get you help unless we know you're, you don't have your weapon.”

"Let's have the next unit get, just bring a non-lethal in case he's pretending," she continued.

That’s when the officers finally begin moving toward Clark's body. They see a cell phone on the ground next to him, handcuff him, and begin chest compressions about five minutes after Clark was shot.

Plumas County Deputy and police training expert Ed Obayashi, however, told the Sacramento Bee that the officers took a reasonable amount of time to respond to Clark.

“They approached him as soon as was safely practical,” Obayashi said. “From what I am seeing and hearing, the officers in my opinion exercised good tactical decision-making.”

The rest of the footage, which totals more than 15 hours, includes 23 in-car camera videos, 28 body-worn camera videos, a sheriff's helicopter video, and two 911 audio clips. The release of the files is a city requirement.

The newly released video also shows multiple officers talking about muting their body cameras — again. The department was already under intense scrutiny after body camera footage released days after the shooting revealed officers had muted theirs. In response, the department implemented a new policy directing officers not to mute their microphones, except in few scenarios where they must verbally explain their reasoning.

READ: Sacramento police can't explain why officers muted their body cameras after shooting and killed unarmed black man

Cover image: Drawings of police shooting victim Stephon Clark are held up next to Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, left, during a meeting of the Sacramento City Council held to discuss the shooting, Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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