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Protests Continue Over Stephon Clark In Sacramento


It's been two weeks since Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, was fatally shot by Sacramento police. Clark was holding a cell phone and standing in his family's backyard when he was killed. There have been more protests since a private autopsy, released Friday, showed Clark was shot eight times - most of those in the back. The Sacramento Police Department said earlier that Clark was advancing toward the officers and believed that he had a gun. Joining me now is Sonia Lewis of Black Lives Matter Sacramento. And she's a member of Stephon Clark's extended family. Welcome, Sonia.

SONIA LEWIS: Thank you.

COLEMAN: First of all, can I just express my sorrow for your loss?

LEWIS: Thank you. Thank you. I - we appreciate that the eyes of not just Sacramento are paying attention - the country and the world.

COLEMAN: What was your reaction to the results of the private autopsy?

LEWIS: It was quite emotional. I was at the press conference. And I got a glimpse of the entry wounds. And it took me to an emotional place because the whole narrative has lots of holes that they created. One - gun, gun, gun - that they felt threatened. And two - that he was lunging at them.

COLEMAN: Is there a new purpose to your protest now that you have this information?

LEWIS: I think that the purpose will stay the same - and that we want the officers fired. So our target right now is the Sacramento city manager because he's responsible. He's the only one within our city government who can fire officers. Our target really isn't the chief of police, although he's complicit in this dynamic because he hasn't come out with a strong enough statement that this is wrong.

COLEMAN: Daniel Hahn is Sacramento's first African-American police chief. He was just sworn in last fall. How do you think he's handling the department overall?

LEWIS: You know, I give him mixed reviews. I knew Daniel Hahn prior to him becoming chief. I am a former high school teacher. And I worked hand in hand with the police department. And in working with him, I truly, truly believed that he has a good heart and good intentions. But now that he's the chief of police, we have to hold him to the line of accountability and transparency.

COLEMAN: Sonia, Stephon's death is the latest of several fatal shootings of black men by police across the country. And some of these killings are not well-known. But they're still happening. What do you feel needs to be done to address this?

LEWIS: You know, I'm of the mind set that our whole policing system needs to be dismantled and abolished. And we need to start over.

COLEMAN: And what would that look like?

LEWIS: What that looks like here in Sacramento - what we have done successfully as a BLM organization is we've created community resources, alternatives to police. We have resources in the community that if this were to happen, call these people instead of calling the police.

COLEMAN: Some of the protests that have been happening since Stephon was killed have been marches and protests that have filled streets and blocked traffic. Some protests blocked basketball fans from entering a sports arena. How far should the protests go?

LEWIS: I think that the protests need to go as far as we need to take them so that America begins to wake up, that this is a problem. You know, 45 said that this is a local issue and...

COLEMAN: And by 45, you mean President Donald Trump.

LEWIS: Correct. This is a national epidemic. This is a national outcry of people and communities in pain.

COLEMAN: Can you tell us something about Stephon before we say goodbye?

LEWIS: Not a problem. I've been able to see a young man, you know, mature into a funny, charismatic kid that now has two kids. He wasn't brought up in the best of circumstances. And so I know that his end goal, at the end of the day, was, how can I be a better parent than my parents were to me?

COLEMAN: Sonia Lewis. She's a leader of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter and a cousin, by marriage, of Stephon Clark. Sonia, thank you very much.

LEWIS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLENDED BABIES' "REALLY..." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.