Stephon Clark's family pastor says community shouldn't 'punish the good officers'

Bayside of South Sacramento Church prides itself on having a close connection with both its community and its police. And twice a year, the congregation hosts dinners for Sacramento police officers.

But in the wake of the March 18 fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, the grandson of a member of the congregation, Pastor Darryl Scarbrough said some congregants were asking if that tradition would continue.

It will, he said Sunday, because it's critical that the relationship fostered by the church remains intact.

"There are people who do good things and people who do bad things," he said in an interview with The Bee between services. "There are officers who do good things and officers who do bad things. We can't punish the good officers for the actions of those that may be bad. So we're still going to (have the dinners)."

Scarbrough said his chief goal now is for his flock to show love and support for Sequita Thompson, Clark's grandmother, and her family.

"She is our first priority because she's family. And so our concern and our responsibility is to her and that family first as they grieve," he said.

Thompson had attended the 11 a.m. service at the church known as BOSS last Sunday, hours before Clark was killed. She told a Bee reporter she’d returned home and shown Clark a video of his younger sister dancing to gospel music.

Clark, 22, was shot by two officers who were searching for a man suspected of breaking windows in the neighborhood. They encountered him on the 7500 block of 29th Street and chased him into Thompson’s backyard. He was carrying a cellphone, which the officers mistook for a gun before firing 20 shots at him.

Police video released days after the encounter shows that the officers and their backup waited at least five minutes before getting Clark first aid, not realizing that he was unarmed.

Scarbrough’s sermon reminded the congregation of God’s love for all creatures. He urged people to focus on the injustices in the system, rather than condemning individuals within it.

He also encouraged members of the congregation to protest if they feel they need to, but asked them not to “break anything.”

In the interview, Scarbrough emphasized the need for dialogue between the community and the police.

"The only way any relationship solves conflict is through communication, and you can't communicate if you're not connected," he said. "So even in the hardest of times, relationships are fixed by having tough conversations."

On Thursday, protesters shut down Interstate 5 during rush hour before turning their attention to the Golden 1 Center. Forming a human chain, they blocked ticket holders from reaching the arena for the game between the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks.

On Sunday, before an afternoon game, members of the Kings and the Boston Celtics wore shirts in Clark’s honor. Former Kings players DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes have offered to pay for Clark's services.

The shooting and subsequent days of protest have brought national attention to California’s capital city. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader and host of an MSNBC show, said Sunday he intends to be present when Clark is laid to rest on Thursday.

Clark’s family has retained attorney Ben Crump, who represented the families of other high-profile police shooting victims, such as Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.

Crump, fellow attorney Dale Galipo and Clark’s family will hold a press conference Monday morning in front of Sacramento’s federal courthouse.

Scarbrough said Sunday that Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn called him a couple of days after the shooting to make sure the family had a safe space to grieve.

He said actions like that make him believe that Sacramento has a chance to set an example for the rest of the country.

"I think that once the dust settles a little bit that we'll be able pull off something that the nation hasn't seen," he said.

Bee reporter Nashelly Chavez contributed to this story.

Ellen Garrison: (916) 321-1920, @EllenGarrison