Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old unarmed black man killed by Sacramento police in his grandparents’ backyard — sparking widespread protests — was laid to rest Thursday with a funeral filled with emotional mourning and about 500 people.
Clark’s brother, Stevante, threw himself on the casket and embraced it with hugs and kisses after the opening prayers at the Bayside of South Sacramento church, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Stevante led the crowd in chants of his brother’s name and interrupted speakers at times. He and Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy, also led people in a call and response, shouting, “I am,” and the crowd responding, “Stephon Clark.”
Stephon Clark’s cousin, Suzette Clark, told The Associated Press the family wanted Clark, who was Muslim, to be remembered as “more than just a hashtag.”
“I just hope it can bring people together,” she said. “Emotions are heightened, but I just hope everyone comes and shows compassion.”
California’s capital city has been on edge since Sacramento police officers, who were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows, shot and killed Clark. Video of the nighttime incident released by police showed a man later identified as Clark running into the backyard where police fired 20 rounds at him after screaming “gun, gun, gun.”
It turned out Clark was holding a cellphone.
Sharpton and others chastised President Donald Trump for failing to comment on police shootings of young black men. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about the Clark shooting and demurred, referring to it as a local issue.
“That is a systemic problem, not a local problem,” said Zaid Shakir, a prominent California imam and former spiritual adviser to Muhammad Ali. “That’s an American problem, a uniquely American problem.”
Protesters — which have included Stevante, who disrupted a city council meeting earlier this week and chanted his brother’s name — have called for police to face criminal charges.
The shooting has moved the Black Lives Matter movement back into the forefront. Two of the officers have been identified in media reports, which say one is white and one is black.
“We are not mad at all the law enforcement. We’re not trying to start a riot,” Shernita Crosby, Clark’s aunt, said. “What we want the world to know is that we got to stop this because black lives matter.”
Following the funeral, police dramatically increased security outside the downtown NBA arena where protesters have twice blocked thousands of fans from entering for Sacramento Kings’ games.
Metal detectors and barricades were set up outside the Golden 1 Center in advance of Thursday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers, and fencing blocked off some stairs to an outdoor plaza surrounding the arena.
Former Kings player Matt Barnes attended the funeral and helped pay for it.
On Thursday morning, the Kings announced the team was partnering with Black Lives Matter to bring “transformational change,” and was creating an education fund for Clark’s young children. The team also said it was partnering with a local group called “Build. Black. Coalition,” which supports black communities in Sacramento.
The arena home to the Kings is the focal point of a downtown revitalization effort. The area has struggled economically and has a large homeless population.
In an impromptu and heartfelt speech at Wednesday night’s game, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said the shooting was “absolutely horrific.”
“I also wanted to say that we at the Kings recognize people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform,” he told the crowd. “It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment.”
Likewise, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was committed to working with Stevante Clark to bring more resources to his South Sacramento community.
The California attorney general’s office on Tuesday joined the investigation, a move Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he hopes will bring “faith and transparency” to a case that he said has sparked “extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.