In response to the fatal shooting of Stephen Clark, a 22-year old unarmed man, who went by Stephon, killed on March 18 by officers of the Sacramento Police Department in the backyard of his family home, Amnesty International sent a letter to Chief of Police, Daniel Hahn. The letter detailed the organization’s concerns that the shooting violated international standards, which state that lethal force can only be used as a last resort when faced with an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
“We are concerned that the footage, both from aerial cameras and a body camera, depict a use of lethal force that may be in breach of international law and standards,” states the letter, signed by Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It is not clear that Mr. Clark, standing in the back yard of his own property and suspected of acts of vandalism presented ‘an imminent threat of death or serious injury’ to the officers or others, still less that twenty shots were “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
The organization also called for all investigations to be “thorough, transparent and impartial.”
“We also seek your assurance that any officer found responsible for unlawful use of force will be held accountable in criminal proceedings as appropriate”
The letter drew attention to California’s use of lethal force statute and its failure to meet international standards, as well as US standards provided by the Constitution, and called for California to revise its statute to abide by international standards and ensure accountability to families who’ve lost their families to the actions of law enforcement officers.
The recent killing is another example of US states failing to uphold international standards on the use of lethal force and firearms, as researched in Amnesty’s 2015 report, Deadly Force: Police use of lethal force in the United States.