Police officers in California fatally shot an unarmed man after mistakenly believing he was armed.
Responding to reports of a suspect in a black hoody breaking car windows, officers in Sacramento were directed to a backyard where a law enforcement helicopter had spotted the suspect picking up a toolbar and shattering a window, according to the Sacramento Police Department.
When the suspect started advancing towards the officers, the police department said, they “believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them” and opened fire.
They were wrong.
“After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms. The only item found near the suspect was a cell phone”, the department’ statement said, acknowledging the “seriousness of this incident and the impact it has on our community”.
The two officers have been placed on administrative leave, the department said, and video and audio footage from body cameras and the helicopter are set to be released.
The victim has been identified as 22-year-old Stephon Clark. He left behind two young sons, according to media reports.
The police shooting of yet another unarmed African-American man – the type of incident that fuelled the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – swiftly set off outrage.
“Being a Black man in a hooded sweatshirt should not be a death sentence”, the American Civil Liberties Foundation of northern California said in a statement.
“We see stories like Clark’s again and again. Police for too long have used excessive force against communities of color, treating Black people as enemies. Racist policing is a systemic problem, not a series of isolated incidents”.