SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — City officials braced for more protests as mourners gathered Thursday for the funeral of a 22-year-old, unarmed black man who was shot to death by Sacramento police in his grandparents’ backyard.
The Rev. Al Sharpton planned to give the eulogy at services for Stephon Clark. Sharpton has called the shooting an “atrocity” that shows the urgent need for intervention against police misconduct and for a thorough investigation.
Some mourners at Wednesday’s wake predicted increased unrest beyond the unruly but mostly nonviolent protests that have disrupted traffic and two professional basketball games since the March 18 shooting.
The Rev. Ray Morsheth of Sacramento Revival Center said he plans to stay away from the funeral for fear things could turn ugly, while the Rev. Phillip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Center said it should be a time for peace and forgiveness.
“I am very concerned about the climate and what’s going on right now,” Goudeaux said of the high emotions since Clark’s death.
Two Sacramento police officers who were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows fatally shot Clark. Video of the nighttime incident released by police shows a man later identified as Clark running into the backyard where police fired 20 rounds at him after screaming “gun, gun, gun.”
It turned out Clark was holding a cellphone.
Some mourners attending Wednesday’s wake called for police to face criminal charges or donned black shirts calling for justice.
The family’s raw grief was on display when Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, had to be physically restrained while confronting members of the media gathered outside the wake. The outburst came a day after he disrupted a Sacramento City Council meeting and screamed his brother’s name at Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
On Wednesday, Stevante Clark told Sacramento TV station ABC10 he was sorry about his behavior.
“What I want to do, first off, is apologize to the mayor,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine someone disrespecting me like that in front of my family. He’s (a) grown man. He deserves respect. I want to apologize sincerely to him, you know. I embarrassed myself in front of my mother.”
Shernita Crosby, Stephon Clark’s aunt, said the family isn’t “mad at all the law enforcement.”
“We’re not trying to start a riot,” she said. “What we want the world to know is that we got to stop this because black lives matter.”
Cousin Suzette Clark said the family wants Stephon Clark remembered as an outgoing, funny, handsome, loving father of two young sons — “more than just a hashtag.”
“I just hope it can bring people together,” she said of the two-hour funeral set to begin at 11 a.m. PDT. “Emotions are heightened, but I just hope everyone comes and shows compassion.”
Authorities are working to avoid a repeat of the protests that have twice blocked fans from entering the NBA arena downtown for Sacramento Kings games. The police, the Kings and Steinberg’s office met Wednesday to discuss security ahead of Thursday night’s game. Sgt. Vince Chandler said officers would be ready to respond in protective gear, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Stevante Clark also told ABC10 he is grateful for protests over his brother’s death but he does not support demonstrations at the Kings’ arena.
“We don’t support people shutting down businesses,” he said.
In a statement posted on the Kings’ website, the team said it is partnering with Black Lives Matter and is creating an education fund for Clark’s children.
The team also said it is partnering with a group of local leaders called “Build. Black. Coalition.” to support what it terms “transformational change” for black communities in Sacramento.
On Wednesday, about 50 protesters took over the intersection near the Sacramento district attorney’s office as part of a protest organized by the local Black Lives Matter chapter to urge the district attorney to file charges against the officers who shot Clark. In New York City, hundreds of people marched to protest the shooting and at least 11 people were detained as tensions flared.
Meanwhile, Steinberg said disruptions like Stevante Clark’s at Tuesday’s council meeting won’t happen again. “But in that moment, that was a brother grieving for the loss of his brother,” he said.
The California attorney general’s office on Tuesday joined the investigation, a move Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he hopes will bring “faith and transparency” to a case that he said has sparked “extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city.”
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(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli & AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli & AP Photo/Sophia Bollag)