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Sacramento Police body camera footage shows officers muted cameras several times

New body-worn camera footage from the Sacramento Police shows that officers arriving on the scene after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark muted their cameras multiple times to have private conversations while examining the scene.
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New body-worn camera footage from the Sacramento Police shows that officers arriving on the scene after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark muted their cameras multiple times to have private conversations while examining the scene.

We asked you to help, and many of you responded.

The Sacramento Police Department on Monday released more than 50 new video and audio files of the Stephon Clark shooting, and we asked readers to review the footage with us and offer questions and comments about what struck them as important.

Crowdsourcing information this way is new to us, but we wanted to bring in a greater diversity of viewpoints and knowledge when reviewing this source material.

We found that you keyed in on many of the same issues that our reporters did when watching the videos. Some readers commented on the time it took officers to render aid to Clark after he was shot. Others were curious why so many police officers responded to the scene. The fact that officers after the shooting muted the microphones on their body-worn cameras bothered many.

The following is a summary of questions raised by readers as they watched the videos and contributed to a shared Google spreadsheet. In response, The Bee has provided information about what we saw as well as context from previous reporting.

How long did it take officers to render aid to Stephon Clark? Why did it take so long?

More than five minutes passed from the moment officers opened fire on Clark to the moment police approached his body. Once officers approached Clark, they spent another minute handcuffing and searching him before administering CPR.

Video footage from the body-worn cameras of the officers who shot Clark shows one of the officers yelling, “Hey, can you hear us?” about three minutes after the shooting. A third officer who was not involved in the shooting can be heard saying, “We need to know if you’re OK. We need to get you medics and we can’t go over to get you help unless we know that you don’t have your weapon.”

The officers who shot Clark later told others on the scene that Clark had something in his hand and that “it looked like a gun from our perspective.”

At a City Council meeting last week, police Chief Daniel Hahn discussed the department’s policy on providing medical aid to those who are shot by officers.

“Officers must recognize that they have a responsibility to act in good faith and provide emergency medical services to the best of their ability and within the scope of their training,” Hahn said. “An officer is not required to render care when reasonable danger exists.”

A City Council resolution adopted in November 2016 states “officers will be trained in basic first aid and will render such aid as soon as it is safe to do so after a deadly force incident,” Hahn said.

Sgt. Vance Chandler, a police spokesman, said Monday the department would examine whether officers acted quickly enough to give Clark medical care.

Why did so many officers respond to this call?

Officer-involved shootings typically generate large responses. Clark’s shooting was no different.

Videos released this week showed officers from throughout the city responded to the shooting.

Dashcam video from patrol cars showed police officers speeding onto Interstate 5 from downtown Sacramento; an officer driving quickly through the streets of Tahoe Park and Oak Park to get onto Highway 99 toward Meadowview; and another officer responding from a side street near the UC Davis Medical Center.

Another video shows two officers checking on the welfare of a man in an apartment building when a call comes over their radio: “Attention all units, sector four had a shots fired, 29th Street and Ellwood Avenue, requesting units Code 3." Code 3 commonly is used to mean activate lights and sirens.

Video of 29th Street shows several emergency vehicles on the scene. The buzz of a police helicopter can be heard overhead.

Sacramento police released 52 video files of the Stephon Clark shooting. This is an edited version of those videos from helicopter and body camera footage.

Why did the officers shoot just seconds after shouting, “Show me your hands”?

Police said they thought Clark was armed with a gun when they confronted him in the dark backyard of his grandparents' home.

As officers chase Clark along the side of the house, one can be heard yelling, “Hey, show me your hands, stop, stop!” A few seconds later, the officers see Clark in the backyard as they round the corner of the house. An officer yells, “Show me your hands, gun!” The officers temporarily seek cover around the corner before one of them yells, “Show me your hands, gun, gun, gun!”

The officers then open fire, shooting at Clark 20 times, hitting him with eight rounds, according to a private autopsy.

Hahn said last week that "current (Police Department) training focuses heavily on de-escalation and tactical communication skills with the goal of generating voluntary compliance with the person the officer is dealing with."

Officers are trained to make "proper communication" with suspects, provide "proper verbal commands" and to take cover, the chief said.

"The officers have to constantly evaluate if the situation presents a threat of great bodily injury or death, how many additional officers are on scene and the current surroundings (before using force)," Hahn said.

The chief said officers in the Police Department went through 40 hours of crisis intervention training last year — far more than the state-mandated eight hours. He said officers also underwent five hours of training on the use of "less lethal equipment" such as Tasers and pepper spray.

The City Council allocated $800,000 last year for less-lethal equipment and training, Hahn said.

Why did some officers mute the microphones on their body-worn cameras? What was said?

We don't know what the two officers who shot Clark said after turning off the microphones on their body-worn cameras. Chandler said the microphone muting would be part of the department's investigation of the shooting.

It wasn't just the officers directly involved in the shooting who muted their mics. A cop who told the two officers who fired the shots to mute their microphones again turned off his own microphone while looking around the backyard with another female officer. This mute lasted for about a minute.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This video from a body-worn camera of a Sacramento Police officer arriving on the scene of the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark shows officers giving CPR to Clark.

In addition, four officers searching a church near the scene also turned their microphones off, according to videos released Monday. Another officer muted his mic to make a phone call.

Hahn told the City Council that prior to the Clark shooting, officers were told they could mute their cameras "for personal conversations, personnel conversations with a supervisor, tactical discussions, or when a citizen demands or requests that the camera be turned off such as during a victim statement."

On April 4, Hahn ordered a new policy on camera muting, which now prohibits mics from being turned off except "in extraordinary circumstances and only when approved by a supervisor."

Councilman Larry Carr, who represents Meadowview, has said the muting of cameras by officers at the scene is one of many elements of the shooting that "just doesn't look right."

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