By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Sacramento church is the latest site of mourning over the death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark at the hands of police last week, with family, friends and strangers gathering Wednesday for his public wake.
Some attendees wore black shirts calling for justice, while one woman held up a clenched fist as she exited the church. Others cried and hugged.
“This feels like the 60s, it doesn’t feel like 2018,” said Cynthia Brown, who said she knows Clark’s grandfather. “We’ve definitely regressed.”
Brown said she’s already talked to her 10- and 15-year-old grandsons, who joined her at the wake, about ways to avoid getting shot by police.
“To me, those could be Stephon Clark,” she said.
Clark’s funeral will be held Thursday, and the Rev. Al Sharpton plans to deliver the eulogy.
Clark was killed March 18 when two Sacramento police officers responding to a report of someone breaking car windows fatally shot him in his grandparents’ backyard. Police say they believe Clark was the suspect and he ran when a police helicopter responded, then did not obey officers’ orders.
Police say they thought Clark was holding a gun when he moved toward them, but he was found only with a cellphone.
For all the angst and raw emotions, grieving and weary family members are skeptical that any substantive change will result before the next young black man dies from police gunfire and siphons away the national media and banner headlines.
“So we appreciate the conversation, but conversation without implementation of some true reformation means nothing,” Clark’s uncle, Curtis Gordon, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “It brought us to this moment, but what about tomorrow? What about next week?
“You know, sadly, I have no confidence in America and the fact that I will probably hear another story sometime this year of an innocent life lost over excessive police force. It’s so common, you’re numb to it.”
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.”
Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office will provide oversight of the investigation and conduct a review of the police department’s policies and use-of-force training. The decision of whether to bring criminal charges against the officers involved remains with District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, although Becerra said his office could also bring charges. Black Lives Matter Sacramento has organized several days of protests outside Schubert’s office calling for the officers to be charged.
Clark’s family is skeptical that the investigation will provide appropriate results, Gordon said.
“It’s all talk at this point,” he said. “Show me.”
African-Americans have been dealing with implicit and explicit bias for centuries, Gordon said. Many factors play a role but he said one necessity is for police to do a better job weeding out those who should not be officers.
Clark’s family is leaning on their faith during the public wake and as they prepare for a two-hour funeral Thursday, both at Bayside of South Sacramento Church. Clark leaves behind a fiancee and two children, ages 1 and 3.
“We trust in a spiritual realm, in our creator, to give us undiscovered strength,” Gordon said.
“We will make it through this. And that’s the thing, ’cause it’s bigger than us and we have to accept that. We carry that torch for Stephon.”