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Dr. Bennet Omalu Answers Questions About Private Autopsy On Stephon Clark

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, gestures to a diagram showing the gun shot wounds he found on the body of police shooting victim Stephon Clark, during a news conference Friday, March 30, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted an autopsy on Stephon Clark at the request of his family. Omalu released the findings of his autopsy on March 30, well before the official report from the Sacramento Coroner’s Office, which was released Tuesday.

After releasing his report, Omalu – known to many people as the concussion doctor for his work on CTE – was criticized for its timing and conclussions.

Omalu joined Beth Ruyak in studio to discuss these criticisms a few hours before Sacramento County released its official coroner’s report. You can read highlights from their discussion and listen to the full interview below.

Listen to Beth Ruyak's full interview with Dr. Bennet Omalu

Interview Highlights

On being called to perform the independent autopsy on Stephon Clark

The family through their lawyers reached out to me on Sunday night. … At that point, I did not know where the body was. All I was told was to show up at the funeral home, that a county coroner had performed an autopsy. Second autopsies are routine. Second and even third autopsies can be performed. So, I quickly read the news, discovered that he was a young man who had been shot many times by the cops. So I said, 'OK, why not,' and such second autopsies, there's no motive — it is simply to identify the prevailing evidentiary findings through the autopsy. The autopsy is a scientific procedure.

On his hypothetical opinion of how the bullets hit Stephon Clark’s body

I was asked, based on the video you saw and based on the total configurations and topography of the gunshot wounds, can you opine, which came first and which came second. And if you notice, I did not say, 'This came first, second, third, fourth ...' ... I provided a hypothetical opinion that based on the totality of the terminal events, more likely than not, he may have been shot on the back of his left side, which turned him around and then he received the other six or seven. And then as he was falling, given the acute trajectory of the wound in his left thigh, he received the wound in his left thigh. Given the acute trajectory it was less likely he was standing up when he received that shot.  

On the time it took for the official coroner’s report to be released

We are choosing not to adhere to the standards of practice of medicine. For example, some people tell me, 'Oh, they are waiting for the toxicology. OK. As I'm talking to you now, I could have cocaine in my blood. The toxicological profile of this individual is of no forensic consequence because when he was shot, they did not know he was intoxicated. What has the toxicological profile got to do with the cause of his death?

On his expectations of how his report would differ with the county’s autopsy

I don't expect the autopsy to be in line with mine. I don't, and if it's completely in line with mine there's a problem. ... Two different doctors doing the same autopsies, you shouldn't expect the findings to be exactly the same. … I don't think the report will state he was shot four times — that would be a problem. Assuming, it's OK, he wasn't shot eight times, he was shot seven times, that's OK. Or he wasn't shot eight times, he was shot nine times, that's OK. There's a natural variation, I don't know people may have heard of plus or minus one standard variation, plus or minus two standard variation.

On whether discrepancies would be a reflection on his credibility

No, no, no — what it means, if you remember in my press conference, I said, 'The second autopsy showed.” There was a first autopsy. Meaning at the time of the second autopsy, this is what we saw. Then, the first autopsy comes out, you combine the two. You shouldn't use either or, you use both.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was adapted for the web by Cody Drabble and Kacey Gardner.

 Stephon Clark

Cody Drabble

Insight Producer and On-Air Director

Cody Drabble learned to love public radio growing up in San Francisco with KQED on every morning during breakfast. In addition to producing and directing the live broadcast of Insight each morning, he also fills in as guest host for Beth Ruyak.   Read Full Bio 

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