A St. Louis Police Department SWAT team shot and killed a black man in a “no knock” raid on his home in 2017 based on false information, according to a lawsuit his family filed last week.
Don Clark Sr., a 63-year-old Army veteran, was asleep when officials broke his door and entered his home in February 2017 without identifying as law enforcement officers, the lawsuit said. The officers then set off a device that emitted a loud sound and flash to disorient Clark. According to the indictment, he was shot at least nine times.
Clark was unarmed, the lawsuit says. The officers gave Clark – who walked with a cane and had poor eyesight and hearing – no medical help and only called emergency services after “crucial minutes,” lawyers wrote.
At the time, police said officers came under fire delivering the search warrant and found two handguns and illegal drugs, including heroin, in Clark’s house, The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported in 2017, citing police documents.
Sam Dotson, who was police chief at the time, told the newspaper the raid was part of a six-month investigation into three houses on Clark’s Block.
The St. Louis Police Department declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Family attorneys did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Clark’s children by the ArchCity Defenders advocacy group, names several police officers and the city as defendants. The family demands unspecified monetary damage as well as police training and political changes “to avoid similar misconduct in the future”.
The lawsuit alleges that officer Thomas Strode received the search warrant based on false claims attributed to confidential informants that Clark sold illegal drugs and had illegal firearms in his home.
Although Strode said he was “observing”[ed] Pedestrian and vehicle traffic compatible with drug trafficking, “the lawsuit said. Clark had no visitors other than his family and a general practitioner. Neighbors called Clark, who previously owned a private security company,” Pops “, and described him as” breastfeeding “. peaceful man who kept to himself,” so the complaint.
Arrest warrants allow law enforcement agencies to enter private premises without announcing their presence. Judges approve such warrants if they agree that announcing the presence of officers may enable suspects to destroy potential evidence or put the police at risk.
Analysis:The Louisville Police Department’s arrest warrants were most commonly targeted at black residents
Several states and cities have restricted or banned search warrants without knocking after officers fatally shot Breonna Taylor while carrying out such a warrant at her home in March 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Courier Journal later found that police in the city disproportionately targeted black residents with no-knock searches.
“I want you to get rid of this warrant issue. I think it shouldn’t exist, “Clark’s daughter Sherrie Clark-Torrence said in a press release.” I have a feeling they would save many people’s lives.
Data from research collaboration Mapping Police Violence showed that St. Louis police killed 42 people from 2013 to 2020, the highest per capita rate among the 100 largest cities in the country. Of the 42 people killed, 37 were black.
Family lawyer Jerryl Christmas described Clark’s death as an avoidable tragedy.
“Had the police done their due diligence, this would never have happened,” said a Christmas statement.
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