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Stephon Clark: A Senseless Killing

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Stephon Clark, A Senseless Killing

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March 18, 2018, dawned like any other day for Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African-American male, but before the day was done, he would belong to the same club as all those killed before him, the likes of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin just to name a few who are now card-carrying members of the "shot dead by the police" club.

On that particular evening, the officers of the Sacramento Police Department were looking for a male suspect who was captured on film breaking windows in the Meadowview neighborhood. The police camera shows officers breathing heavily as they run around the neighborhood trying to apprehend the suspect. They come across Clark standing in the yard of his grandmother's house with a cellphone in one hand. What ensued is hard to watch as is and was the case in many other shootings involving black males in the U.S. The camera footage takes you through the encounter and then one officer is heard shouting, "Gun! gun! gun!" and a barrage of shots follows. The aftermath shows the victim on the ground, his life seeping away. The officers had fired 20 rounds, eight shots found their mark, six of them in Stephon Clark's back. He died about 3 to 10 minutes after being shot. The officers opened fire just seconds, six seconds in all, after they encountered Clark.

This is nothing new. The "overkill" by law enforcement of black males is nothing new, it has happened often enough. The horror and anger is nothing new either and so are the protests that ensued as hundreds if not thousands took to the streets looking for justice. We have yet to see justice prevail in such shootings because police officers are held to different standards and they march to a different drum beat, or so it seems in this country.

According to the police, they believed that Clark was holding a weapon in his hand as they chased him into the backyard and opened fire at an unarmed man. The weapon was a white iPhone. The officers have claimed that they "feared for their lives." We've heard this excuse often enough. Take Michael Brown for instance. The officer, Darren Wilson, who shot him claimed that he feared for his life against an unarmed Brown. The young teenager had been shot six times at least twice in the head; those were the last two shots he delivered. According to Darren Wilson, it was a "fight for survival" and he shot him because he feared for his life. Sound familiar?

Coming back to the case at hand, no aid was administered to Stephon Clark after the shooting. It took about five minutes before a female officer is heard saying, "We need to know if you're OK. We need to get you medics, so we can't go over and get you help until we know you don't have a weapon." Right, how many bullets does it take to believe that a shooting victim is no longer a threat? After five minutes, they walk over and handcuff the man lying bleeding on the ground. More officers arrive at the scene and one officer is heard saying, "Hey, mute," and that was the end of the audio recording.

This is just another shooting of yet another black male in the scheme of things. The use of deadly force is also the norm where black males are concerned. Shoot first and ask questions later is the stance law enforcement takes when it comes to black suspects. The latest incident has sparked protests but this too is nothing new. The anger will simmer long after the protests have died down but justice will take a long time coming, if at all.

California lawmakers are pushing to make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill civilians. According to the author of the bill, Shirley Weber, "It seems that the worst possible outcome is increasingly the only outcome that we experience." How right she is. These killings can only be described as an "overkill" to say the least.

In the meantime, another black male is dead, the victim of a police shooting. Far too often we hear, "we feared for our lives," from the officers after emptying their barrels into the victims but in most cases it was not the officers who had to fear for their lives, it was the victims who had no weapons to protect themselves and are no longer here to give an account of what took place.

Stephon Clark was the father of two young boys, ages 1 and 3, and at the time of his death, he was trying to turn his life around. He had a criminal record but that is not the point here. His record is irrelevant; the shoot-to-kill mentality is. The case is under investigation but don't hold your breath. The killing of black males will continue in a culture where it is condoned by the system.

Stephon Clark's grandmother asked, "Why didn't you shoot him in the arm? Shoot him in the legs? Send in dogs? Send in a Taser? Why? Why?" Those are my questions too, but I will add one more question to that. Why was Clark shot six times in the back if as the officers claimed that they had feared for their lives when they delivered the shots? Finally, did Stephon Clark deserve to die even if he had broken some windows on that late March evening? What do you think?

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Thelma Mueller is a writer residing in Germany but has lived in Asia and America for many years. She writes for an international online magazine daily and has published short stories, a children's book and is currently working on a novel. Her (more...)

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