California police fired 20 rounds at man holding mobile phone

SACRAMENTO, United States - The mayor of Sacramento, California, said on Thursday (March 22) he was "horrified" by video showing police firing 20 times at an unarmed black man who died in the backyard shooting.

Police in Sacramento, the state capital, released video footage late on Wednesday of the shooting of Stephon Clark, 22, on Sunday night, which police said showed him holding an object that was later found to be a mobile phone.

More than 200 demonstrators gathered on Thursday to denounce the shooting, in a protest organised by the Black Lives Matter movement. Organisers described the shooting death of black people by police as disturbingly common.

"Like any compassionate person, I was horrified by the death of a young Sacramento man who we later found out had two kids," Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at a news conference.

"What was my reaction? It was horrible," he added.

Protesters marched into the city hall lobby on Thursday shouting, "It's a phone, not a gun" and demanded a meeting with the police chief.

"I have four grandbabies who are black and I don't want them taken," said protester Tami Collins, 47, who is white.

Photo: AFP

A series of killings of unarmed black men by police across the United Stated since 2014 has generated protests and put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over their use of lethal force.

In Sacramento, the police said in a statement that the shooting occurred when officers responded to a report that someone had broken car windows in a residential area. Police later found at least three damaged vehicles.

Deputies in a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter saw a suspect shatter the sliding glass door of a house and then jump a fence to enter the yard of another house, police said.

Police released infrared video from the helicopter that showed the man hop the fence.

Other video from police body cameras shows two officers run after Clark with their flashlights and turn the corner of the house to face him in the backyard, yelling: "Show me your hands" and "gun" before they shoot him.

The officers had seen Clark "advance forward with his arms extended and holding an object," which they believed was a gun, before they opened fire 20 times, police said.

Officers then waited five minutes, until backup arrived, before approaching Clark to help him, police said.

After the shooting, investigators found a mobile phone near Clark but no firearm, police said.

The mayor said the city will review police protocol for aiding a person who is lying still.

The shooting was in the backyard of Clark's grandparents home, where he had been staying, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, which spoke to Clark's relatives.

The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting.

Photo: AFP