Neighbor who called 911 before Stephon Clark shooting speaks out
Dave Reiling was watching television in his trailer when he heard the sound of breaking glass in his Meadowview neighborhood. Startled, he went outside and discovered two of his trucks' windows were broken and saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt.
Reiling dialed 911 to report the incident. But three weeks later, knowing his call preceded the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, Reiling expressed regret.
“It makes me never want to call 911 again,” said Reiling, who lives in a trailer parked in a yard across the street from where Clark was shot dead by two Sacramento Police Department officers March 18. “They shot an innocent person.”
The night Reiling called police to the 7500 block of 29th Street ended with officers firing 20 rounds at Clark while he stood in his grandparents’ backyard, hitting him first in the side, six times in the back and another time in his thigh, according to a private autopsy released by the legal team representing Clark's family.
Police said the officers in the shooting, who have not been formally identified by the department because of threats, feared Clark was pointing a gun at them when they found him minutes after arriving to the street.
Reiling said Monday he dialed 911 after hearing a noise on the street while watching television in his trailer that night. He then heard a second sound much closer to his trailer and went outside, Reiling said.
His trailer sits on the front yard of his wife’s home, located across the street and one house north from where Clark was shot. His two trucks — a plum-colored 1991 Ford Explorer and a white 1999 version of the same vehicle — were parked on the street nearby. He found both cars with broken windows and saw a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt standing next to the driver’s side of one of the vehicles, he said.
"He busted two of my windows in and he broke the car's window across the street from me," Reiling is heard telling the dispatcher on a 911 recording released by police along with body camera video three days after the shooting.
Reiling said Monday he couldn’t make out facial features in the darkly lit part of the street. He was not sure if there was anything in the man’s hands, he said.
“He was standing on the driver’s side door looking over the truck at me,” Reiling said Monday. “I got my ball bat and started chasing him down the street.”
The man eventually went into a neighbor’s backyard and Reiling called police, he said. On the call, Reiling keeps telling the dispatcher that "the dogs are going crazy" in the backyard where he thought the man had gone.
Reiling was standing on the street with the dispatcher on the phone until a helicopter and two patrol cars arrived. The helicopter instructed him to go indoors, so he did, he said.
Minutes later, Reiling heard gunshots. He assumed police and the suspect were involved in a shootout, he said.
“They shot somebody back there, Stephon, for a cellphone," Reiling said Monday, adding that he watched the video released by the department after the shooting.
Body camera footage of the incident released by police showed the two officers running into a backyard, yelling at Clark to show his hands and stop.
The officers found Clark after a Sacramento County Sheriff’s helicopter unit warned of a man who had broken a neighbor’s sliding window with a "tool bar" and was jumping over a fence. An officer is heard on the video yelling "gun" before he and his colleague shoot Clark dead.
Clark was found with a cellphone after the shooting, and the backyard was determined to belong to Clark's grandparents. No weapon was discovered.
While he did not know Clark, Reiling said he saw the 22-year-old father of two a few times when Clark visited his grandparents. Reiling, a mechanic, said he knew some of Clark's family members better and occasionally worked on their cars when they needed repairs.
When asked if he knew if Clark was the man who he saw standing next to his truck that night, he said he couldn’t make that determination.
“I can’t tell you that because I didn’t see,” he said.
Days after the shooting, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said while he believed Clark was the man who allegedly broke car windows the night of the shooting, he could not “say factually it was him yet.”
Reiling described a third car, a gold-colored sedan parked one house away from where Clark was shot, as also having a broken window.
Three cars are being held in evidence as the California Department of Justice conducts its investigation into the incident, Sacramento Police Department spokesman Eddie Macaulay said via email Monday. Xavier Becerra, the state's attorney general, announced late last month that his office would provide independent oversight into the March 18 shooting as District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert conducts her own investigation.
The cars were found near the house where the shooting occurred but their exact location is part of an ongoing investigation, Macaulay said.