California DOJ To Lead Investigation Into Shooting of Stephon Clark

The California Department of Justice will oversee the investigation into the shooting and killing of Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was killed by Sacramento police officers last week, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

"Today we take another step toward strengthening the respect and trust that we need to keep Californians safe," Becerra said, while speaking at a press conference Tuesday morning. 

Becerra was joined by Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, the city's first African American chief as he made the announcement. 

"I have complete confidence in my detectives, but due to the nature of this investigation, the extremely high emotion, anger and hurt in our city, I felt it was in the best interest of our entire community, including the members of our police department," Hahn said. "Our city is at a critical point right now, and I believe this will help build faith and confidence."

Clark was killed while police were searching for a suspect that was reportedly breaking car windows in the neighborhood. A caller said a man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard according to the Sacramento Police Department. 

Videos of the incident were quickly released by the department, that showed a sheriff's department helicopter directing officers to a man they were following. The airborne deputies told officers that the man had picked up a "toolbar" and broken a window to a home. 

Officers spotted the man running south toward the front of the house and ordered him to stop and show his hands. When he ran, officers chased Clark, where authorities say he turned and advanced on officers "while holding an object which was extended in front of him."

That object turned out to be a cell phone. Clark was unarmed at the time of the shooting. The killing of Clark sparked several days of major protests in Sacramento. 

California Department of Justice to oversee investigation into stephon clark's shooting

"The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them. Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect multiple times," a statement from the Sacramento Police Department said. 

Becerra said the agreement will ensure California's Department of Justice will provide independent oversight into the shooting of Clark, as well as review the training procedures for Sacramento police officers. 

"Although we will continue to coordinate with the Sacramento Police Department, we will retain our independence as we conduct this review," Becerra said. "My team and I at CDOJ will do everything in our power to ensure this investigation is fair, thorough and impartial."

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn says the investigation will only be the beginning and that the department has a long way to go before regaining people's trust. 

"We will explore and implement ways to better serve our community, and find way to prevent this sort of tragedy in our city." 

Officials have asked residents to withhold judgement until the investigation can be completed. 

Photos: Getty Images

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