April 1, 2018 / 4:04 PM / 4 months ago

Rising tension at protests over killing of black man in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Tensions mounted over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Sacramento, California, black man when a protester sustained minor injuries when struck by a sheriff’s patrol car that was under attack by demonstrators, authorities said on Sunday.

About 150 people demonstrated in Sacramento on Saturday night to protest the March 18 shooting death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was gunned down in his grandmother’s yard.

The death of Clark, a father of two, was the latest in a string of killings of black men by police that have triggered street protests and fuelled a renewed national debate about bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Protesters on Saturday night surrounded two marked Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and “began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement early Sunday.

“A collision occurred involving the sheriff’s patrol vehicle and a protester who was walking in the roadway,” the statement said. “The patrol car was travelling at slow speeds.”

The protester was identified by local media as Wanda Cleveland, 61, who regularly attends Sacramento City Council meetings.

A demonstrator, at a Stephon Clark vigil, reacts as a Sacramento County Sheriff's vehicle approaches in Sacramento, California, U.S., March 31, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video April 1, 2018. Twitter/ @southafricangd via REUTERS

The protester was transported by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department to a hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries, the Sheriff’s Department said.

“Vandals in the crowd” damaged the patrol car, which “sustained scratches, dents, and a shattered rear window,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

Demonstrators interviewed by local radio and television stations, who prompted a flurry of similar Twitter responses, said the sheriff’s car failed to stop and called the incident a hit-and-run accident.

The incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Saturday’s demonstration brought together a multi-racial crowd, many in it holding signs such as “Stop Police Rage” and “Power to the People.” It was led by retired National Basketball Association player Matt Barnes, who grew up in the area and had two stints with the Sacramento Kings franchise.

Clark was shot by police responding to a report that someone was breaking windows. Police said the officers feared he had a gun but that he was later found to have been holding a cellphone.

Police have said he was moving towards officers in a menacing way. The shooting was captured on a body cam video released by police.

Slideshow (5 Images)

In several days of sporadic protests, protesters have blocked traffic and twice delayed fans from reaching games played by the Kings at the Golden 1 Center.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York: editing by Steve Orlofsky

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