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'I needed to be away from the fake love.' Stephon Clark's brother seeks mental health help

The brother of Stephon Clark said Monday he received in-patient mental health treatment last week after police responded to a disturbance call about his behavior at a local hotel, highlighting what he and community activists say is a need for crisis services in the wake of police shootings.

Stevante Clark, the older brother of Stephon Clark, said he was taken to University of California Davis Medical Center April 1 after police responded to a 911 call in north Sacramento regarding a disturbance about 9 a.m. that morning. Clark said he subsequently spent about two days as an inpatient in a nearby mental health facility.

"It was great. I needed it," said Clark. "They didn't make me go there. I asked the officers to take me to the hospital."

Clark told The Bee that he has struggled with his mental health since two Sacramento police officers shot and killed his brother on March 18. He said the intense attention from media and community has been difficult to cope with and made it hard to maintain focus on his brother's life and legacy.

"I needed to be away from the fake love," Clark said. "The hospital helped me because they understand I am normal. ... I am not a celebrity. Now I'm scared."

Stephon Clark was shot and killed in his grandmother's backyard. Clark was holding a cellphone, which officers apparently mistook for a gun.

Police had originally been responding to a 911 call about a man breaking car windows in the Meadowview neighborhood when a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter assisting on the call located Clark in a backyard and directed officers to him. Police subsequently said they believe Clark was the subject of the 911 call, but have not yet finished their investigation.

The incident has drawn intense media coverage, led to weeks of protests and re-ignited discussions about race in American policing. Protesters shut down Interstate 5 one evening. On another night, Stevante Clark and supporters seized the focus of a City Council meeting.

Stevante Clark was admitted to the hospital last Sunday after someone called police about a disturbance at The Greens Hotel on Del Paso Boulevard. Clark said he had caused damage at the hotel, where his family was staying to avoid scrutiny. The Greens is a boutique motel that was purchased and renovated about nine months ago, according to front desk staff.

Sacramento Police Department spokesman Eddie Macaulay confirmed officers transported Clark to UC Davis for mental health reasons after encountering him that morning when they responded to a disturbance call.

Under California Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150, law enforcement personnel and some other mental health providers can place a person under a 72-hour involuntary hold if the subject is deemed a danger to himself or others. It is not clear if police or hospital staff requested Clark be admitted, but Clark said he was placed on an involuntary hold.

Macaulay said Clark was cooperative with officers. He could not immediately say who made the 911 call.

Many African American community members said they have seen multiple people in recent days asking for mental health help after the Clark shooting. Some said that after other police shootings, such as that of Joseph Mann in 2016, they noticed similar mental health impacts for the families and community involved.

"The mental health and the PTSD and that other stuff is real," said Richard Owens, a members of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, which has worked for police reforms in Sacramento. "It just hits you in the gut."

On Saturday, a local pastor invited people who have "been feeling trauma" as a result of the Clark shooting and its aftermath to gather together for mutual support. A psychologist attended the "Safe Black Space" meeting at Unity Church of Sacramento to help participants process their emotions, said pastor Kevin Ross.

A publicly released video showing police shooting and killing Clark has been a source of stress for some people — including Stevante Clark — who have followed news events, Ross said. "To see such a thing in such a graphic way, over and over, is traumatizing," he said.

"There are mothers who are terrified for their black sons," he said. "People who do not trust law enforcement. We had people wailing, expressing their pain. Grown men crying."

Another meeting of the group will be scheduled for next month, Ross said.

Ross called Stevante Clark's recent behavior, including outbursts at public meetings, "a call for help and a call for love."

"He has lost both of his brothers due to some form of gun violence. That is not a normal occurrence for a young person. It would be difficult for anyone to keep it together under the circumstances."

Clark's stepbrother De'Markus McKinnie was accidentally fatally shot in the abdomen in 2006.

"I have seen Stevante on multiple occasions, and he was having a crisis," said Ross, who said he worked as a mental health technician in college. He said his psychiatric hold could benefit him "if it's handled with sensitivity and compassion."

For Clark, the respite has allowed him to regain focus on his "talking points," he said. He praised the staff and other patients at the facility for helping him.

"They treated me nice," he said. "The love I received there was incredible ... It felt so good just to sit there."

Clark said he wanted to work toward more police reform including more diversity on the force and more community policing, and providing security for his brother's two young children, his grandmother and his mother.

"My little brother's name living forever in a positive light is the most important thing to me," he said.