Journalist and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill didn’t hold back on a former cop who attempted to defend the police shooting of unarmed Black man Stephon Clark in Sacramento this week.
Clark, who was holding a cellphone that police claim they thought was a gun, was shot and killed in his own backyard as officers responded to reports of a man breaking car windows. The fatal shooting has sparked protests across the nation, becoming the latest case of far-reaching outrage over lethal use of force by police against Black people.
Appearing on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, Hill lamented Clark’s death, saying stories like his have become all too familiar.
“A Black man or woman who is outside is vulnerable to state violence,” Hill said before shifting focus to the fatal shooting. “[Clark] didn’t have a weapon. The police reports were saying he had a crowbar, not a gun. The police didn’t enter the chase expecting a gun, and they didn’t identify themselves as police before the exchange began in the yard.”
“This man was going to his own house and he was in his own yard and this happens far too often,” he continued.
Former Los Angeles police officer David Klinger, who also appeared on the show, offered his two cents on the matter and attempted to defend the actions of the two officers who shot Clark that night.
“Unfortunately people that commit crimes often times carry firearms,” Klinger explained. “And I have friends that have been involved in the shootouts with people in similar circumstances responding to a car prowl situation. And so police are trained when dealing with a situation where someone is involved in a potential crime and they are fleeing from the police, that deadly force is something that is a possibility.”
Hill shot back, arguing that that wasn’t the point and that officers have the responsibility of identifying themselves in such situations.
“No one disputes that guns could be drawn,” he said. “No one is disputing that oftentimes bad things happen. No one disputes that sometimes criminals have guns. The question is: why don’t you identify yourself as a police officer?”
The former officer replied by highlighting the fact that there was a police helicopter overhead, so Clark should’ve known the cops were there.
“Maybe he thought it was something else!” Hill protested before unleashing on Klinger.
“The other question is why is there such of an over-representation of Black people [shot],” he added. “We’re disproportionately killed while unarmed. It is not to say police are never in danger. We often think Black people are dangerous, even when they aren’t … Toy guns become real guns, cell phones become real guns in the minds of police officers. We disproportionately get it wrong with Black people.”
Watch the rest of their exchange above.