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BLM protesters descend on Sacramento over Stephon Clark murder

A protest over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man briefly shut down a major California freeway and disrupted the start of an NBA game Thursday.

Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Alonzo Clark as he was standing in his grandparents’ backyard on Sunday night, claiming they believed he was pointing a gun at them. It was later revealed he was only carrying a cell phone, but was nonetheless shot 20 times.

Protesters shouting ‘Shut it down’ formed a human chain blocking fans from entering Golden 1 Center while dozens of police initially attempted to clear entrances before fans were told to go home.

There was shouting but no apparent violence.

The game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks got underway about 20 minutes late as thousands of frustrated fans waited outside. 

Protesters shouting ‘Shut it down’ formed a human chain blocking fans from entering Golden 1 Center while dozens of police initially attempted to clear entrances before fans were told to go home

A protest over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man briefly shut down a major California freeway and disrupted the start of an NBA game Thursday. Veronica Curry is pictured at the head of Thursday's protest

A protest over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man briefly shut down a major California freeway and disrupted the start of an NBA game Thursday. Veronica Curry is pictured at the head of Thursday’s protest

Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Alonzo Clark as he was standing in his backyard on Sunday night, claiming they believed he was pointing a gun at them. It was later revealed he was only carrying a cell phone, but was nonetheless shot 20 times. Anita Ross holds a photo of Clark

Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Alonzo Clark as he was standing in his backyard on Sunday night, claiming they believed he was pointing a gun at them. It was later revealed he was only carrying a cell phone, but was nonetheless shot 20 times. Anita Ross holds a photo of Clark

 Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets and shut down Interstate 5 in both directions late Thursday afternoon

 Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets and shut down Interstate 5 in both directions late Thursday afternoon

The game between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks got underway about 20 minutes late as thousands of frustrated fans waited outside. A protester holds a sign against the door of the Golden 1 Center during Thursday’s demonstration 

A protester walks across the top of a police car as hundreds of protesters took to the streets holding signs with messages like 'Sac PD: Stop killing us!'

A protester walks across the top of a police car as hundreds of protesters took to the streets holding signs with messages like ‘Sac PD: Stop killing us!’

Protesters surround a police car as they shut down Interstate 5 in both directions in downtown Sacramento on Thursday

Protesters surround a police car as they shut down Interstate 5 in both directions in downtown Sacramento on Thursday

A person lies bloodied on the pavement after being accidentally knocked over during the protest against Clark's death

A person lies bloodied on the pavement after being accidentally knocked over during the protest against Clark’s death

Police officers searching for a suspect who was seen breaking car windows in a Sacramento shot dead Stephon Clark

The 22-year-old father of two boys died in his grandmother's backyard

Police officers searching for a suspect who was seen breaking car windows in a Sacramento shot dead Stephon Clark.  The 22-year-old father of two boys died in his grandmother’s backyard 

Kings officials moved the few hundred fans inside to courtside seats and offered them free non-alcoholic beverages before the game began in the largely empty arena. 

A half-hour after the delayed tipoff, officials announced no more fans would be admitted.

Fan Doug Hillblon said he thought protesters upset at the Sunday’s shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark went too far in blocking the entrances.

‘Their rights don’t supersede everyone else’s,’ he told The Sacramento Bee as he waited with his wife and a family friend outside the arena.

But season ticket holder Barbara Mitchell, who is black, told the newspaper she was ‘appalled by what happened to the young man. It was a travesty. So as much as I love basketball, it’s OK. I’m not angry. I admire them for taking the time to protest an injustice.’

Earlier, the several hundred protesters marched from Sacramento City Hall onto a nearby freeway, disrupting rush hour traffic and holding signs with messages like ‘Sac PD: Stop killing us!’

They were upset that Clark was shot in the backyard of his grandparents’ home. Police say they feared he had a handgun when they confronted him after reports that he had been breaking windows in the South Sacramento neighborhood.

But police found only a cellphone.

Earlier, the several hundred protesters marched from Sacramento City Hall onto a nearby freeway, disrupting rush hour traffic 

Earlier, the several hundred protesters marched from Sacramento City Hall onto a nearby freeway, disrupting rush hour traffic 

Allegra Taylor, left, and other protestors were upset that Clark was shot in the backyard of his grandparents' home. Police say they feared he had a handgun when they confronted him after reports that he had been breaking windows in the South Sacramento neighborhood

Allegra Taylor, left, and other protestors were upset that Clark was shot in the backyard of his grandparents’ home. Police say they feared he had a handgun when they confronted him after reports that he had been breaking windows in the South Sacramento neighborhood

 Demonstrators are pictured with a sign reading 'Police should do time for their crimes' after the Sunday night shooting of an unarmed black man 

 Demonstrators are pictured with a sign reading ‘Police should do time for their crimes’ after the Sunday night shooting of an unarmed black man 

 A demostrator holds a sign outside of Sacramento City Hall reading 'Stop killing us' during the protest

 A demostrator holds a sign outside of Sacramento City Hall reading ‘Stop killing us’ during the protest

 Andre Young, who says he is a cousin of shooting victim Stephon Alonzo Clark, holds his head in his hands outside of the city hall 

 Andre Young, who says he is a cousin of shooting victim Stephon Alonzo Clark, holds his head in his hands outside of the city hall 

 Kings officials moved the few hundred fans inside to courtside seats and offered them free non-alcoholic beverages before the game began in the largely empty arena. A half-hour after the delayed tipoff, officials announced no more fans would be admitted

 Kings officials moved the few hundred fans inside to courtside seats and offered them free non-alcoholic beverages before the game began in the largely empty arena. A half-hour after the delayed tipoff, officials announced no more fans would be admitted

‘We are at a place of deep pain’ because of recent violence directed at black people in Sacramento and elsewhere, said the Rev. Les Simmons, a community leader. 

He said the city’s first black police chief, Daniel Hahn, is doing what he can but protested the actions of Hahn’s officers.

Clinton Primm said he was friends with Clark for about six years and fears others are also at risk at being shot by police.

‘He was a great dad,’ he recalled of Clark, the father of sons ages 1 and 3. ‘He loved both of them to death.’

Sacramento resident Vanessa Cullars said she has lost two family members to police violence.

‘I’m fed up with this,’ she said at the protest. ‘I feel like our lives don’t matter to them.’

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg earlier said he was horrified but won’t second-guess the ‘split-second decisions’ of the officers. 

He praised Hahn for quickly releasing videos of the shooting and said the department has improved its policies since the fatal shooting of a mentally ill black man in 2016.

This photo from video provided by KCRA3 shows demonstrators throughout downtown Sacramento

This photo from video provided by KCRA3 shows demonstrators throughout downtown Sacramento

The protesters took to the street throughout the city to protest  the shooting of Clark, who was shot in his grandparents' backyard after being confronted by police

The protesters took to the street throughout the city to protest  the shooting of Clark, who was shot in his grandparents’ backyard after being confronted by police

The crowds of protesters are seen outside of the Golden 1 Center, blocking the entrances to fans who were trying to enter 

The crowds of protesters are seen outside of the Golden 1 Center, blocking the entrances to fans who were trying to enter 

A pair of Sacramento Police Officers block access to the elevators of Sacramento City Hall to Allegra Taylor, right, and others during the demonstration

A pair of Sacramento Police Officers block access to the elevators of Sacramento City Hall to Allegra Taylor, right, and others during the demonstration

A protester walks across the street in downtown Sacramento holding a sign that says 'Cop does not equal judge, jury and executioner' 

A protester walks across the street in downtown Sacramento holding a sign that says ‘Cop does not equal judge, jury and executioner’ 

 Black Lives Matter and other demonstrators are pictures peacefully protesting Clark's death outside the NBA arena

 Black Lives Matter and other demonstrators are pictures peacefully protesting Clark’s death outside the NBA arena

But independent experts said the footage from body cameras and an overhead helicopter raises more questions than it answers.

The officers appeared to believe they were in danger, they said, and if so the shooting was likely legally justified.

One officer is heard ‘doing a mental inventory to make sure there’s no holes in his body’ because the officers appear to think Clark may have shot at them and missed, said Peter Moskos, a former police officer and assistant professor in the Department of Law and Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

But Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina and an expert on police use of force, said the officers may have a tough time explaining why they jumped to the conclusion that Clark had a gun.

He also questioned why an arriving backup officer had the two original officers turn off the microphones on their body cameras, eliminating what he called ‘important evidence.’

In an ideal world, the two officers should have immediately provided first aid instead of waiting five minutes for backup, said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 

‘But that could be more the product of hope than reality,’ he said, with the officers still in shock and worried about their own safety.

The Sacramento Police Department said officers were responding to reports of a man seen breaking into at least three vehicles and later into a neighbor’s home. 

The police said deputies in the helicopter saw Clark break a neighbor’s sliding glass door before jumping a fence.

As a result, ‘their threat radar is really high,’ said Plumas County sheriff’s deputy and special prosecutor Ed Obayashi, who trains officers and testifies in court on police use of force.

‘They have to assume that their lives are in danger at that very second,’ he said.



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