White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that last week’s fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old, unarmed black man is a “local matter and something we feel should be left up to the local authorities.”
Reporter April Ryan asked Sanders during her daily briefing what President Donald Trump had to say about Clark’s death and Tuesday’s announcement that the Louisiana attorney general would not charge two white police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge. Sanders called the incidents “terrible.”
“We want to make sure all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law,” Sanders elaborated. “The president is very supportive of law enforcement. But at the same time, in these specific cases and specific instances, those will be left up to local authorities to make that determination and is not something for the federal government to weigh into.”
The American Urban Radio Networks correspondent pressed further. Ryan said the mother of Eric Garner, the black man who died in 2014 after repeating “I can’t breathe” while being restrained by a New York City police officer, is still seeking an indictment and asked whether the president has asked for one or knows what is happening in the case. Sanders again said it was a “local matter.”
The city of Sacramento has been in turmoil since Clark’s death on March 18. Protesters gathered at Sacramento City Hall on Tuesday to plead for justice and chant, “No justice, no peace.” Clark was shot 20 times by police officers in his grandparents’ backyard. The officers claimed they believed he was armed, though Clark had only a cellphone in his hand.
“We want to find ways to bring the country together ― certainly not looking for any place of division,” Sanders told reporters Wednesday.
Sanders was also asked whether the president feels the need to do something to address the concerns of African-American mothers fearing for their children’s lives. The press secretary drew a hard line, saying race is not part of the equation.
“I think we should do every single thing we can every single day to protect the people of this country,” Sanders said. “I think the president ― whether they’re black, white, Hispanic, male or female, rich or poor ― we look for ways to protect the individuals in this country, particularly children.”
Trump has defended police officers throughout his tenure, saying that they “deserve a greater level of respect and gratitude than they currently receive.” He has characterized protests against police brutality as “anti-police sentiment” that “is wrong and it’s dangerous.” And Trump has repeatedly called on the NFL to crack down on players, such as Colin Kaepernick, who have knelt during the playing of the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice perpetrated by law enforcement.