The Slatest

Unarmed Black Man Shot by Police in Sacramento Found to Have Been Holding Cellphone When Killed

Police tape
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

An unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Sacramento police in his backyard Sunday night after officers said he advanced toward them holding out an “object” was found to have been carrying a cellphone, Sacramento police said Monday.

The man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, was killed outside the home he shared in south Sacramento with his grandmother, grandfather, and siblings, the Sacramento Bee reported. Police said that officers were responding to a report of a man fitting Clark’s description breaking car windows. According to the Bee, sheriff deputies in a helicopter spotted Clark in a backyard and told police he had shattered a house’s window with a toolbar, then looked inside a car in front of that home. Police said later they believe he broke the windows of three or more nearby cars. The deputies in the helicopter directed officers on the ground to where Clark was.


The officers ordered Clark to stop and show his hands, police said. According to their account, Clark fled to the back of the property, then turned around and came toward them with an object, now known to be a cellphone.

The officers shot multiple rounds and hit him several times, according to the Bee. The two officers held their position for around five minutes before approaching Clark, who was then pronounced dead. Those two officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation.

Clark had two young sons named Cairo and Aiden, his family told the Bee. On Monday night, Black Lives Matter activists led more than 100 people, including family members, in a vigil and protest.

The department has said it will release body camera footage of the incident within 30 days.