‘The fight isn’t over,’ says Salena Manni, fiancée of Stephon Clark
Salena Manni this weekend did what she always does when she comes to Sacramento. She visited her fiancé‘s grave.
“It is just comforting to me,” she said. “I talk to him. I do prayers for him. It gives me comfort to know that is where he is. I still feel like I am with him.”
But this weekend was unlike any other since the Sunday night last March when police shot and killed Stephon Clark, 22, the father of her two sons. Called to reports of someone breaking car windows in Meadowview, officers confronted Clark in his grandmother’s side yard, chased him into the back and shot him, mistakenly thinking the cellphone in his hand was a gun.
As the months passed, Manni has been waiting for the district attorney’s decision on whether the two officers should be prosecuted, hoping the DA would find them culpable of murder, but sensing it wasn’t likely.
Manni, 24, flew up to Sacramento on Saturday from Southern California, where she now lives with her parents, once she heard the DA’s announcement was about to happen. She came, she said, to speak publicly on behalf of Stephon and his sons, Aidan, 4, and Cairo, 2. She wanted to make sure none of them are forgotten.
She found she had flown into a maelstrom.
Not only did District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert conclude that the two officers were innocent of crimes, Schubert spent considerable time in her press conference discussing what she presented as a troubled relationship between Manni and Clark. The DA said Clark had been convicted twice of domestic abuse, and that Manni was the victim. Schubert shared texts between the two, showing Manni had called police on Clark two days before his death after he allegedly hit her. The DA showed evidence that Clark feared going back to jail and suggested via evidence that he contemplated suicide.
Manni denounced the DA at an emotional press conference alongside Stephon Clark’s mother on Saturday.
On Sunday, Manni spoke publicly again, this time in brief one-on-one interviews with The Sacramento Bee and other news media outlets. She spoke quietly, calmly, at times shyly. “I cried my eyes out all day yesterday. I’m all cried out. I still feel all the pain and emotion.”
She declined to discuss what she described as personal matters regarding Clark and said the district attorney should not have either. “I expected her to speak more about what the officers did wrong, not about personal issues,” she said. “This is about the wrongdoings of the officers, not about Stephon’s life. I feel like that was irrelevant.”
Manni, who lived in Sacramento for 12 years until Clark’s death, said the pair met while students at Sacramento City College. They were friends and then they dated. She couldn’t explain, when asked, what the attraction was. “He was just fine,” she said. “We connected.”
“We wanted a family together,” she said. She grew up with two parents, she said, but Clark did not come from an intact family and it was tough on him.
“Family was important,” she said. “We wanted to have a big family so we could have each other and can all protect each other. He always wanted that.”
She has a job, but declined to talk about it. She said she doesn’t know where she goes from here. “It’s kind of hard. I haven’t figured it all out. But I want the best for my kids.”
She said she is grateful for many people in Sacramento. She visited protesters at Arden Fair mall, taking pictures with them and thanking them for their support. Her visit this past weekend was assisted by Rev. Shane Harris of San Diego, who formerly worked with Rev. Al Sharpton, and is founder of the People’s Alliance for Justice advocacy group.
Disappointed by the DA’s decision, she said she hopes the state Attorney General will agree to prosecute the two officers.
“Without the community we wouldn’t have made it this far,” she said. “But the fight isn’t over.”