Protester At A Stephon Clark Vigil Was Hit By A Sacramento Sheriff’s Car & It Was Caught On Video
Sacramento has already been reeling after police shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in mid-March. However, the situation has just kept heating up as more information has come out surrounding Clark's death — and now, on Saturday night, a sheriff's car hit a protester at a Stephon Clark vigil.
According to reporting from CNN, a demonstrator carrying a sign saying "Stephon Clark Rest in Power" was hit by a sheriff's vehicle during the vigil. Bystander video footage of the incident shows a woman walking in front of a sheriff's car and making a hand motion telling the sheriff to stop, and then the collision took place.
Sacramento State's The State Hornet identified the woman as Wanda Cleveland, a 61 year-old grandmother. The sheriff's car appeared to accelerate before hitting her, Cleveland said, and the car then drove away. Cleveland was taken to a local hospital, and the Sacramento Bee reported that she was later released with bruises on her arm and head.
"He never even stopped. It was a hit and run. If I did that I’d be charged," Cleveland said while she was at the hospital, according to the Bee. "It's disregard for human life."
A press release from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department acknowledged that a collision happened and stated, "As one of the Sheriff’s Deputies was driving, a collision occurred involving the Sheriff’s patrol vehicle and a protester who was walking in the roadway. The collision occurred while the patrol vehicle was traveling at slow speeds." The department said it is conducting an internal review, and the California Highway Patrol is also investigating the incident.
That sheriff's car that hit Cleveland left the scene along with a second sheriff's vehicle, which the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said was because of safety concerns. “As protesters approached both of the marked vehicles, they began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior," a spokesperson for the department told Capital Public Radio. According to various Twitter videos of the incident, someone in one of the cars was repeatedly saying “Back away from my vehicle.”
This was only one of many protests since Stephon Clark died on March 18. Police fatally shot him while he was in his own backyard, and an independent autopsy ordered by his family showed that the gunshots mostly hit him in the back. The officers were responding to a call about a robbery, and according to a press release from the Sacramento Police Department, they reacted with gunshots when Clark was "holding an object which was extended in front of him."
The press release states that the officers believed that object to be a firearm, and thus responded with gunfire. However, the autopsy contradicted the press release in confirming that Clark was shot with his back facing the officers — and the only thing found that Clark could have been holding was his cell phone, not a firearm.
Clark's death has led to numerous protests in the two weeks since it happened, where thousands of people from Sacramento and elsewhere have come out on the streets to demonstrate. This protest in particular was led by Matt Barnes, a former NBA player originally from Sacramento. Barnes held one of Clark's two young sons at the protest and promised to start a scholarship fund for them and other children whose lives have been affected by police violence.
"How do we explain to our kids because of the color of your skin, people aren’t going to like you?" Barnes said at the protest. "This is a nationwide problem. Once we get it up we are to going carry it nationwide, to provide kids who have lost their father to unfortunate stuff like this a chance to still come up and be productive men."