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Sacramento Police Release Stephon Clark Autopsy, Calls Family Private Findings 'Erroneous'
The Sacramento Police Department released the Sacramento County coroner's autopsy of Stephon Clark on Tuesday, with the coroner calling information from the Clark family’s private autopsy “erroneous.”
An independent review of the autopsy also says the county’s findings “do not support the assertion that Clark was shot primarily from behind.”
The county autopsy concludes that Clark was struck by seven bullets, whereas the family autopsy by Dr. Bennet Omalu, which released on March 30, said he was hit eight times, mostly in the back.
The county autopsy was conducted by Dr. Keng-Chih “Kenny” Su and indicates that Clark was hit directly to the side by three bullets, and in the right side of the back three times, in addition to one bullet in the front of the left thigh.
Dr. Gregory Reiber, a forensic pathologist with Placer County, independently reviewed the county’s autopsy, said Omalu’s autopsy mistook an exit wound as an entrance. “This is a significant error,” Reiber wrote, “as it leads to incorrect conclusions regarding the relative positions of the victim and shooters during the event.”
He also disagreed with findings that Clark was shot mostly in the back, writing that the county’s conclusions “do not support the assertion that Clark was shot primarily from behind.”
Omalu told Capital Public Radio on Tuesday before the county's autopsy was released that “the two autopsies performed by two different doctors should not be exactly the same,” adding that there were changes to the body and exit wounds during the first autopsy that he did not see at the second.
He said that people should not consider “either-or” when coming to conclusions on how Clark was killed. “You should use both,” he said.
Clark was fatally shot by two Sacramento police officers March 18. Three days later, Sacramento police released body-camera and helicopter video of the shooting, which indicated that the officers fired 20 shots.
Since, demonstrators have led protests demanding charges against the two officers and reforms to police policy. The official investigation into the shooting, which is being conducted by the Sacramento Police Department, with review and oversity by the county district attorney and state attorney general, is ongoing.
The county report concluded that Clark died as a result of two bullets through the chest, which caused “major visceral and vascular injury,” and that he died after several minutes, due to his heart stopping, according to Reiber. He disagreed with Omalu’s claim that all the shots could have been lethal.
A toxicology report by the county indicates that Clark had active levels of codeine and alprazolam (Xanax) in his system during the shooting. The report also found trace elements of cocaine and cannabis.
Omalu said the “toxicological profile of this individual is of no forensic consequence because when he was shot they [the officers] did not know he was intoxicated.”
Dr. James Gill, who is the chief medical examiner in Connecticut and a member of the College of American Pathologists, said that second autopsies, as done by Omalu, can sometimes be misleading. “They’re not that common,” he said, adding that “They’re usually not that helpful if the first one is done properly.”
According to a letter from the county coroner to the police department, Su’s report was reviewed by the county’s chief forensic pathologist, and two county coroner pathologists, in addition to Reiber.
Berry Accius, a community organizer and activist who works with black youth, says the county’s autopsy doesn’t change the fact that Clark shouldn’t have been killed.
“The autopsy does nothing for a lot of us,” he said. “The police officers used excessive force. There was no reason that this young man should have been killed. There was just none. At all.”
Sonia Lewis, a member of the Clark family and a leader of the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said that "regardless of coroner and toxicology reports, Stephon was unarmed and in his backyard. There was no need for excessive force, which led to his murder."
Black Lives Matter protest at the district attorney's office entered its sixth week on Tuesday. Demonstrators are asking for the DA to bring charges against the officers who shot Clark.
Sacramento County Coroner’s Stephon Clark Autopsy Case Review
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