The autopsy of the Stephon Clark shooting is highly damning:
Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man shot by Sacramento police officers while holding a cellphone in his grandparent’s backyard last week, was shot eight times, six of which hit him in the back, according to independent autopsy results released on Friday.
The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a private medical examiner hired by the lawyer representing the Clark family. According to Omalu, Clark was shot four times in his lower back, twice in his neck, and once under one of his armpits. Another shot hit Clark in the leg. “His death wasn’t instantaneous,” Omalu told reporters. The findings come one day after a funeral service was held for Clark.
“These findings from the independent autopsy contradict the police narrative that we’ve been told,” Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer, said in a statement. “This independent autopsy affirms that Stephon was not a threat to police and was slain in another senseless police killing under increasingly questionable circumstances.”
The Sacramento County Coroner’s office, which is conducting the official autopsy, has not yet released its findings.
On March 18, Clark was shot in the backyard of the home he was staying in with his grandparents. The Sacramento Police Department has said the officers were responding to a 911 call that a man was breaking car windows in the area.
According to a press release issued by the Sacramento Police Department shortly after the shooting, a helicopter tracking a suspect directed the officers to Clark, who ran towards his house after being confronted by officers. The police department said Clark turned and began to “advance forward with his arms extended, and holding an object in his hands.”
The officers, who are said to have thought the object was a gun, then fired 20 rounds at Clark, eight of which hit him. After the shooting, officers waited several minutes for backup before moving to handcuff Clark and beginning medical treatment. And the only item he turned out to have been carrying was a cellphone.
The shooting has sparked public outcry both locally and nationally. For more than a week, protesters have taken to the streets in Sacramento, calling for the officers involved in the shooting to be charged for Clark’s death and noting that Clark is just the latest black man to be shot by Sacramento police in recent years. On Tuesday, the California Justice Department announced that it would investigate the use of force practices of the Sacramento Police Department.
That this happens so often doesn’t make it less outrageous.
Donald Trump has been president for 14 months, and in that time, he has commented on virtually everything under the sun, from able news personalities and political rivals to professional football players and prominent black celebrities. Trump is so vocal about what he likes and dislikes—so present in the national conversation—that his omissions are often more revealing than his comments. On the rare occasions when this president is silent, it is consistently when confronted with violence against nonwhites.
On Thursday, reporters asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for comment on the shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was killed by the Sacramento, California, police while standing in his grandmother’s backyard. According to a private autopsy, Clark was shot eight times in the back by police who claimed to have seen a gun. He was holding a phone. “Certainly a terrible incident,” said Sanders, before adding that “this is something that is a local matter and that’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point in time.”
Far from “local matters” that don’t rise to presidential attention, police shootings like the one that killed Clark are obviously of national concern. Presidents speak to them—and other racial incidents—because race and racism are critical parts of American life, and addressing them is an important part of representing the country as a whole.
But this assumes that Donald Trump seeks to represent all Americans. Among other things, his attacks on immigrants, disparaging language for migrants, overt disrespect for prominent black Americans, and deliberate neglect of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria say otherwise. In both word and deed, President Trump has announced who he intends to serve and represent while in the White House. Americans like Stephon Clark, unfortunately, aren’t part of that group.