Days after officers muted their body cameras before gunning down Stephon Clark, experts are trying to make sense of the decision.
Sacramento Police officers fired 20 times at Stephon Alonzo ‘Zoe’ Clark, after chasing him through the streets at night, into the backyard of his grandparents’ house, where he’d been staying.
Clark, 22, died at the scene holding a cellphone, which cops said they mistook as a gun.
The department released two body camera videos, the 911 call and the helicopter footage on Wednesday after the shooting occurred on March 18.
But officials have not explained why an officer can be heard saying ‘Hey, mute’ seven minutes after they gunned down Clark.
Police have released shocking video that shows the moment cops shot dead an unarmed father-of-two in his own back yard
Officers fired 20 times at Stephon Alonzo ‘Zoe’ Clark, after chasing him through the streets at night, into the backyard of his grandparents’ house (pictured after being shot)
The muting of the video brought people into an uproar about what could’ve been said that required for it to not be publicly recorded.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told KCRA that muting the footage has added extra tension to the investigation.
‘Muting is one of those things that we have to take a look at,’ Hahn said. ‘Any time there is muting on this camera, it builds suspicion – as it has in this case. And that is not healthy for us in our relationship with our community.’
But he did not give an explaination as to why the officers might have thought it was necessary.
Body cameras were implemented last year in the Sacramento Police Department with specific rules on when they should be activated.
But these rules do not specify when the camera is allowed to be muted.
The department policy includes 16 instances when a body camera is required to be activated by officers, CNN reported.
Two officers are then seen moving up the side of the house and confront him
As Clark lay dying on the ground, the officers yelled at him to ‘show me your hands!’
These instances include vehicle and on-foot pursuits, like what was seen when officers chased Clark through the Sacramento neighborhood.
Officers are allowed to deactivate their cameras during certain circumstances at their discretion.
Some allowances include when officers are having a confidential conversation or when they are trying to conserve the camera’s battery.
But the policy is unclear on if muting and deactivating a camera are one in the same.
‘I think it’s a policy we should look at very carefully and perhaps change entirely,’ Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during a news conference Friday.
Seth Stoughton, an assistant law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, told CNN that there are some circumstances where a cop would want to mute their camera.
One reason could be because they realized the recordings would be released, so they wouldn’t want their every word to be analyzed by the public.
‘They were in a situation where they didn’t want a word to be scrutinized,’ he said.
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 said officers commanded Clark to show his hands, and ultimately shot him out of fear for their safety because they mistakenly thought he was pointing a gun at them
The police officers were in the Sacramento neighborhood on March 18 searching for someone who was smashing in car windows.
Clark was allegedly observed breaking car windows and shattering a sliding door at an occupied house.
According to the news release, officers entered the front yard and observed Clark along the side of the residence. The ordered him to stop and show his hands.
‘The suspect immediately fled from the officers and ran towards the back of the home,’ the statement read.
Officers pursued Clark and tracked him to the backyard of his family’s home. There, police say the 22-year-old ‘turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him,’ and which they mistook for a firearm being pointed at them.
‘Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons striking the suspect multiple times,’ police stated.
Five minutes later, backup arrived and Clark was placed in handcuffs before officers began life-saving efforts. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The police department has yet to offer an explanation on why the body camera was muted after the shooting.
Clark is pictured in this undated photo with his mother, who had lost another son to violence