Sacramento Police Officers Will Not Be Charged for Killing Stephon Clark

The DA’s office says there is no evidence that a crime was committed.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie SchubertRich Pedroncelli/AP

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Police officers in Sacramento, California, will not face charges for shooting and killing Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man last year, the county district attorney announced Saturday. “Was a crime committed?” District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a press conference. “When we look at the facts and the law and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no.”

Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet fired 20 times at Clark, killing him in his grandparents’ backyard last March. The shooting led to protests in Sacramento and political consequences for Schubert, as well as legislation to restrict police use of lethal force in California.

In coming to its decision, the DA’s office reviewed “extensive” footage from body cams as well as helicopter, surveillance, and dashboard video, along with other evidence, Schubert said. She showed helicopter footage of the shooting as well as Mercadal’s body cam at her press conference to support her account of what happened the night Clark was killed.

On March 18, 2018, Mercadal and Robinet responded to a 911 call about a person smashing car windows in a south Sacramento neighborhood. (A later investigation determined that Clark had broken the car windows, but did not steal anything.) After speaking to a witness, they searched the neighborhood, with the help of a sheriff’s helicopter. They located Clark and pursued him on foot into a backyard they later learned was his grandparents’. As they rounded the corner of the house and confronted Clark 30 feet away, they believed he was pointing a gun at them, Schubert said. The item in Clark’s hand was actually a cell phone.

At the press conference, Schubert presented evidence that Clark was suicidal the night of March 18, claiming that two nights before the shooting, the mother of his children had called 911 to report Clark for domestic violence. A police search of Clark’s cell phone revealed he was distraught after the incident and, fearing he would go to prison, searched the internet for information about how to commit suicide, finding information about lethal drug combinations. According to Schubert, a toxicology report from the police autopsy found a combination of alcohol, Xanax, codeine, hydrocodone, marijuana, and cocaine metabolite in his system at the time of his death.

Repeatedly, Schubert emphasized that the DA’s office had “done our best to exercise discretion” in the case while balancing transparency and sensitivity toward Clark’s family. The office also decided to post materials from their investigation on a dedicated website.

Black Lives Matter Sacramento has called for protests at the Sacramento Police Department, tweeting that “Stephon was stolen from his family.”

Lizzie Buchen, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union in California, told the Sacramento Bee that the decision not to file criminal charges “opens a new wound for the Sacramento community,” adding that the case “serves as a potent reminder that California’s law on the use of deadly force needs immediate reform.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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