ST. LOUIS – The city of St. Louis and more than 20 local police officers are the subjects of a wrongful death suit tied for the 2017 killing of a 63-year-old man while the officers attempted to execute a “no knock” warrant.
Lawyers for the civil rights organization ArchCity Defenders filed the lawsuit in federal court Wednesday on behalf of Don Clark Sr.’s children.
Clark was shot and killed on the evening of Feb. 21, 2017, at his home in 4000 block of California Avenue in south St. Louis.
St. Louis Police said they had applied for and received permission to serve “no knock” warrants at three homes in connection with a months-long drug investigation.
Officers claim no one answered the door at one of the residences after they announced themselves, so they used a battering ram to knock the door down and gain entry. Former St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said at the time that a man inside the home fired a shot at police.
Police deployed a flash-bang grenade before the individual fired another shot, Dotson said. One officer returned fire, fatally wounding the man.
That man, later identified as Don Clark Sr., was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Lawyers representing Clark’s children say the patriarch of the family was a U.S. Army veteran, a father of 7, and a grandfather who suffered from vision and hearing loss, and a range of other health issues. The family believes law enforcement raided the wrong home.
Police say the shooting was justified and claim they recovered two handguns and drugs from Clark’s residence.
The affidavit for the no knock warrants mentions that police suspected the people in the homes could be armed and dangerous.
Police claim Clark had numerous prior arrests. His family denies he had any criminal history and says their father was acting in self-defense.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief in the form of financial compensation for damages and written apologies from every defendant to Clark’s children, as well as mandatory police training and changes to department policy to avoid incidents like this in the future.
Clark was an Army veteran and a grandfather who suffered from a range of health issues, including loss of hearing and vision.
“It’s abundantly clear from the situation that happened with Don Clark that nobody took a close look at this. Anyone including you would know that this is not the house to do a no knock search warrant,” said attorney Jerryl Christmas, who is representing the family.
“What happened to Don shouldn’t have happened to anyone and we need to make sure our system is accountable at all levels.”
The night Clark died was the last time his son, Don Jr., spoke to his father. He said his dad, who was also known as Pops, was looking forward to their visit the following day.
“I was robbed out of that,” Don Jr. said.
He and his family are not only seeking justice for themselves but so that these incidents will stop taking the lives of others.
“We need to hold the people that say they’re going to continue to protect us to have accountability,” Don Jr. said.
You can read the lawsuit in its entirety below: