Why ‘He Should Have Just Complied’ Does Not Apply to Stephon Clark

A protester holds a photo of Stephon Clark during a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside Sacramento (Calif.) City Hall on March 22, 2018.
A protester holds a photo of Stephon Clark during a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside Sacramento (Calif.) City Hall on March 22, 2018.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Since reporting Tuesday night on the shooting death of Stephon Clark at the hands of the Sacramento Police Department, I have gotten many of the same responses from people both on Twitter and in the comments section on The Root.


Why didn’t he just comply? Why was he running from the police? Why was he holding his phone like a gun?

Even after videos were posted Wednesday night, people still seem to be confused about the events that occurred on Sunday, March 18, so I thought it would be a good idea to clear up at least some of the misconceptions that are floating around out there.

Why was he running from the police?

Clark was never running from the police. He was already running through backyards and hopping fences in his neighborhood headed to his home. The police were not chasing him.

Even as the helicopter guides the two police officers to his location, he is still at his own home, standing on the side of it, and has no way of knowing the police are after him.

When the police begin rushing toward him, he moves.

At no point do the police identify themselves as police officers. They yell at him to show his hands, say that he has a gun and begin shooting at him. They fire at him 20 times.


The police do not identify themselves until after he is already dead and the second unit arrives.

The police claimed that they saw him with a gun, and the excuse everyone is making for that is, “Well, it was dark.”


Well, guess what? Stephon Clark was in that same darkness and had no way of knowing who was coming toward him in that darkness as he stood in his own backyard.

Have you ever been on the other side of a police flashlight? Those things are blinding and make it impossible for you to see anything. If the police didn’t identify themselves as officers, how was he supposed to know who they were?


Why didn’t he just comply?

As the videos show us, not only did the police not identify themselves, but as soon as they yelled out their command, they immediately began operating under the assumption that he had a gun. They began firing their weapons within three seconds of telling him to show his hands.


Clark was never given the opportunity to comply.

Why was he holding his phone like a gun?

I’m still trying to figure out what “holding his phone like a gun” looks like. From what I can see on the helicopter video, it doesn’t look as if he pointed anything at them. His iPhone was white and in his hand at the time he was shot. Not sure how something big and square got mistaken for a gun, but OK?


Evading arrest is a misdemeanor in California.

Even if Clark was running from the police, evading arrest is a misdemeanor in the state of California, and it is not punishable by death. No one deserves to die just because they ran from the police. Someone running from the police is not posing a threat to them.


If you are still confused after reading this, please watch this Washington Post video in which they combine the audio from the helicopter and the various videos provided by the police to show what happened.

Stephon Clark was executed by two frightened police officers. Period.

There’s nothing else left to debate.


Not Enough Day Drinking

It’s the very same people who say ‘why didn’t he just comply’ that are the first to say the ‘cops feared for their lives.’

If the people who are most informed about the specific situation and trained to deal with those types of situations can’t be expected to maintain their composure, then how the hell can they expect a dude in his yard minding his own business who just got run up on by angry men yelling with guns pointed at him for no apparent reason to act calmly and rationally?

Where is his right to fear for his life? Should he express it by shooting first like the police? Or is it best expressed by trying not to harm anyone and get away?