A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses a St. Louis police SWAT team of killing an innocent man during a “no knock” raid at his home four years ago.
The civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the children of Don Clark Sr. It names the city and several police officers, and seeks unspecified monetary damages.
“I want them to get rid of that ‘no-knock’ warrant thing. I feel it shouldn’t exist,” Clark’s oldest daughter, Sherrie Clark-Torrence, said in a news release.
Clark was a Black 63-year-old Army veteran in declining health; he had diabetes, poor eyesight, poor hearing and walked with a cane. The lawsuit said he also had no criminal record when several armed officers converged on his home on Feb. 21, 2017, rammed down the door and set off a diversionary device that created a disorienting flash and bang.
One of the officers then shot Clark nine times, the lawsuit stated. Clark did not have a weapon, “nor did anything that would give any reason to believe that he was an immediate threat to the Defendant Officers or the public,” the lawsuit stated.
A police spokeswoman said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation. A message left with the office of Mayor Tishaura Jones was not immediately returned.
At the time of the shooting, police said officers came under fire while serving a search warrant, and that officers found two handguns as well as illegal drugs, including heroin.
The family disputed the police claims, and the lawsuit said neither drugs nor illegal weapons were found in the home.
Emanuel Powell, an attorney for ArchCity Defenders, said the case highlights serious institutional failures in the St. Louis department’s use of “no knock warrants.”
Data from the research collaborative Mapping Police Violence showed that St. Louis police killed 42 people from 2013 through 2020, the highest per capita rate among the nation’s 100 largest cities. Of the 42 people killed, 37 were Black.
This story has been corrected to show that the lawsuit was filed in federal court, not state court.