A St. Louis police SWAT team shot and killed a Black man in 2017 during a "no-knock" raid at his home based on false information, according to a lawsuit filed by his family last week.
Don Clark Sr., a 63-year-old Army veteran, was asleep when officers broke down his door in February 2017 and entered his home without identifying themselves as law enforcement, the lawsuit says. Officers then detonated a device that emitted a loud sound and flash to disorient Clark. He was shot at least nine times, according to the lawsuit.
Clark was unarmed, the lawsuit claims. Officers didn’t give Clark — who walked with a cane and had poor eyesight and hearing — medical aid and only called for emergency medical services after “crucial minutes had passed," lawyers wrote.
At the time, the police department said officers came under fire while serving the search warrant and found two handguns and illegal drugs, including heroin, in Clark's home, The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported in 2017, citing police documents.
Sam Dotson, who was the police chief at the time, told the newspaper the raid was part of a six month investigation into three homes on the Clark's block.
St. Louis police 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 legal advocacy group ArchCity Defenders, names several police officers and the city as defendants. The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as police training and policy changes "to avoid future similar misconduct."
The lawsuit claims that officer Thomas Strode obtained the warrant authorizing the raid based on false allegations attributed to confidential informants that Clark was selling illegal drugs and had illegal firearms in his home.
Although Strode said he “observ[ed] foot and vehicle traffic consistent with narcotic trafficking activity," the suit states Clark had no visitors except his family and a home health care provider. Neighbors called Clark, who previously owned a private security company, "Pops" and described him as a "quiet peaceful man who kept to himself" according to the suit.
No-knock warrants allow law enforcement to enter a private premise without announcing their presence. Judges approve such warrants when they agree that announcing officers' presence may allow suspects to destroy potential evidence or endanger police.
Multiple states and cities limited or banned no-knock search warrants after police officers fatally shot Breonna Taylor while executing 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 them to get rid of that ‘no-knock’ warrant thing. I feel it shouldn’t exist," Sherrie Clark-Torrence, Clark’s daughter, said in a press release. "I feel by them doing that they would be saving a lot of people’s lives."
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.
Attorney Jerryl Christmas, who is representing the family, called Clark's death a preventable tragedy.
“Had the police done their due diligence, this would have never happened,” Christmas said in a statement.
Contributing: Matthew Brown and Tessa Duvall, USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: St. Louis police sued over Don Clark Sr. death, no-knock warrant