California's AG to oversee investigation of Stephon Clark's killing in Sacramento
Officials have tried to reassure critics, including Clark's family, that the investigation will be fair and transparent.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, center, flanked by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, left, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Sacramento, California.Rich Pedroncelli / AP
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As protests continued to roil California's capital city, the state's top law enforcement official said Tuesday that his office would oversee the investigation into the police killing of Stephon Clark and conduct a separate review of the Sacramento Police Department's policies on use of force.
The moves were in response to an invitation from Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who has tried to reassure critics, including Clark's family, that the investigation will be fair and transparent.
Clark, 23, a black father of two, was shot to death on the night of March 18 by officers responding to reports of a man smashing car windows. The police department released footage from the officers' body cameras, which shows that the officers chase Clark, corner him in a backyard and fire 20 shots at him. The footage captures officers saying they believed that the suspect was armed; one shouts "Gun! Gun! Gun!" before they open fire. No weapon was found, only a cellphone.
The videos continue as the officers depart the backyard and backup arrives. At one point, one says, "Hey, mute," and the videos' audio goes silent. Critics have seized on that move as reason to suspect an attempted cover-up. Police say the investigation will include why the officers muted their cameras.
Tanya Faison, founder of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, said at a news conference later Tuesday that the attorney general’s involvement did not guarantee a fair investigation. She called for a review by an independent team of civilian investigators, like the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission.
"They need to be the ones in charge,” Faison said, “because we’re their bosses and it needs to look like that.”
Faison also rebuked officials who called for protesters to stay peaceful. She and other Black Lives Matter representatives argued that protesters were reacting to a history of violence against black Americans by police. “Don’t tell us how to fight you. Don’t tell us what we need to do next,” Faison said.
Hahn has not yet authorized the public release of the officers' names, saying that they have received death threats and that providing such information could endanger them.