“Any peace officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.” California Penal Code 835a
The March 18 shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police has generated nationwide controversy, especially after the release Wednesday of bodycam video from the two officers involved and aerial footage from a Sacramento sheriff’s helicopter.
Although the case remains under investigation, veteran Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Reichel reviewed the videos for The Bee and said he cannot see evidence that would lead to criminal charges against the officers.
But he added that there are disturbing aspects to parts of the video that require investigation, including a snippet where one officer appears to confirm after the shooting that Clark had obeyed their commands to show his hands.
"He came up, and then he kinda approached us hands out, and then fell down...," one officer says to a female police officer who has arrived on the scene.
"They told him one command: show us your hands," Reichel said. "So he is showing them his hands.
"Now, he's coming forward. He wasn’t told to stop, so if they say show us your hands and they back up and hide, what do you do to not get shot? Do you come forward showing us your hands? Or do you stay there or hit the ground? That's the problem...It could be unreasonable to shoot."
Reichel noted that the officers did not appear to identify themselves as police to Clark, but said that with a helicopter circling overhead Clark would have known he was facing off with police.
Reichel said, the situation may have been defused if officers had ordered Clark to drop to the ground rather than show his hands, or if they had taken cover behind the wall of the house before immediately opening fire once they believed they saw a gun.
Reichel, a former vice president of the Sacramento American Civil Liberties Union, said other key evidence may be the helicopter footage, which appears to show Clark advancing on the officers the moment they open fire with 20 shots.