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Protests over fatal Sacramento police shooting of unarmed black man

Protesters marched into City Hall in Sacramento, California, and onto an interstate Thursday as the mayor called for calm after police killed an unarmed black man they believed had a gun.

Sacramento police said the two officers fired at Stephon Clark, killing the 22-year-old, who was in his grandmother’s backyard after a chase. Investigators said they did not find a weapon, only a cellphone.

Protesters called for the arrest of the two officers and demanded to see police Chief Daniel Hahn as they marched into City Hall. The protest, which was organized by Black Lives Matter Sacramento, briefly spilled onto Interstate 5 after the group left City Hall.

“A phone is not a gun,” protesters chanted.

Less than an hour before the protest, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Clark’s death warrants a thorough review of the shooting, and of police policies and procedures.

“It is vital that we give voice to the pain in our community, especially the African-American community,” the mayor said.

Steinberg said, “I feel the community’s anguish.” He called for the public not to rush to judgment until an investigation is completed.

“Emotions are understandably high. People are anguished,” he said. “I understand it and we understand it. I urge our community to remain peaceful.”

The incident began on Sunday after 9 p.m., when Sacramento officers responded to a report that a man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard. They pursued a man who hopped a fence into the grandmother’s property.

The shooting was captured by the two officers’ body cameras and a police helicopter; that footage was released on Wednesday.

Steinberg said officials release police body camera footage earlier to the public since the fatal shooting in 2016 of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill man.

Officers fatally shot Mann after they tried to run him down in their cruiser. Police were responding to 911 calls of a man armed with a gun and knife, according to recordings released by police. Mann did not have a gun but held a knife.

He had mental health and drug problems, his family said. On the day of his death, he could be seen on the police videos acting bizarrely and making strange gestures as he walked in the street.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said the officers were justified in shooting Mann to defend themselves and protect the public, according to a memorandum. Mann and his family reached a $719,000 settlement with the city last February, CNN affiliate KTXL reported.

The two officers fired 18 times at Mann, according to the memorandum.

On Sunday, officers fired 20 times at Clark, hitting him multiple times, police told CNN affiliate KOVR.

The body camera videos show the brief encounter between police and Clark, lasting less than a minute, from the moment one of the officers yelled: “Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop.”

Police said the officers entered the front yard and saw the suspect along the side of the home. Police said the man “turned and advanced toward the officers while holding an object” extended in front of him.

“Show me your hands!” one of the officers yelled. “Gun, gun, gun.”

Seconds later, officers opened fire as they took cover near a wall.

As more police arrived at the scene, someone is heard asking “What did he have on him?”

An officer responded “… something in his hands. It looked like a gun from our perspective.”

Clark’s family members have disputed the police account.

Clark’s grandmother said she was inside the house when the shots were fired, and saw her grandson with an iPhone. Stevante Clark, Stephon’s brother, said the two often stayed at their grandmother’s house.

“They said he had a gun. Then they said he had a crowbar. Then they said he had a toolbar,” Stevante Clark said on HLN. “What is a toolbar?”

“If you lie to me once, I know you’ll lie to me again.”

He said his brother was a father of two. He was stylish and got regular manicures and pedicures.

“He was like Ric Flair,” his brother said, referring to the stylish wrestler. “He was an entrepreneur. He would make money selling shoes … playing online for video games.”

By Darran Simon, CNN