Stephon Clark: California clergy implore attorney general to charge cops or face political heat

Watch clergy passionately urge California attorney general to ‘do the right thing’

Stephon Clark activists demanded California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to file criminal charges against two Sacramento police officers who shot the 22-year-old last March.
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Stephon Clark activists demanded California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to file criminal charges against two Sacramento police officers who shot the 22-year-old last March.

Stephon Clark activists turned their focus to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Monday, demanding that he file criminal charges against the Sacramento police officers who shot Clark last March or face determined political opposition in the future from clergy leaders.

Rev. Shane Harris, president of the People’s Alliance for Justice and a representative of Clark’s family, delivered a letter to a Becerra aide at his I Street offices downtown asking that charges be filed, then held an impassioned news conference afterward outside the building, declaring, “Enough is enough.”

“Please, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, do the right thing,” Harris said. “Charge Officers Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet with the killing of Stephon Clark.

“Stand with the community on the right side of history.”

Harris made his comments two days after Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced she would not file charges against the officers. Becerra is conducting his own investigation of the March 18, 2018, shooting and is expected to deliver a decision soon.

Harris implored Becerra to ignore the political clout of police unions, traditionally large contributors to political leaders like Schubert and Becerra, and charge both Sacramento police officers. Refusing to do so, Harris said, would result in ministers statewide punishing Becerra at the ballot box in future campaigns.

“The ministers are watching, it’s not just activists, not just community leaders, but the ministers, the moral compass of our nation, still the strongest institution in our community are watching your decision on this,” Harris said. “And we want you to do what is right, Xavier Becerra.”

Becerra appeared at an earlier, unrelated news conference at the Capitol on Monday, but would not reveal anything about his investigation.

“We’ll be concluding very soon,” Becerra said. “I’m not going to foretell the results of that investigation.”

He said his office has been working on the investigation for months, that conversations have “intensified over the last several weeks” and that he expects to release the report soon, although he declined to give any specifics about timing.

“I understand how important this is,” Becerra said. “We know how serious a matter this is for not just the Clark family but for a lot of folks beyond Sacramento as well.”

Becerra said he would answer questions about his decision once he releases his report.

He also declined to comment on the use-of-force bills in the Legislature until after he completes his report on the Clark shooting.

He said that as attorney general he has power to review the work of California district attorneys, but in this case his review is completely separate from Schubert’s investigation.

“We’re not reviewing what the DA did,” he added.

Becerra’s review of the shooting, which has spawned protests that have continued now for nearly a year, is not the final step in the process.

Once that is released, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento is expected to review both the Schubert and Becerra investigations to ensure nothing was missed.

Harris, who earlier delivered a letter to Schubert urging charges against the officers, was harshly critical Monday of Schubert’s Saturday news conference, during which she revealed personal details about Clark and troubles with his girlfriend.

Activists have seized upon those revelations and denounced them as unfair, but Schubert said Saturday she had to release relevant evidence she reviewed, and some legal experts agreed she was correct.

Clark, 22, was shot to death by two Sacramento police officers after being chased into the backyard of his grandparents’ Meadowview home.

Police say they believed he was breaking into cars and ignored their shouts to stop. When they confronted him in the dark backyard after 9 p.m., the officers have told investigators they believed he was in a shooting stance and pointing a gun at them.

They fired 20 shots, striking him at least six times. Investigators later found he was carrying only a cellphone.

Protests over the shooting have continued since then, and were amplified by Schubert’s Saturday announcement that the shooting did not warrant criminal charges.

That decision sent protesters in the streets again, first to a gathering outside Sacramento police headquarters Saturday, then to a sit-in at Arden Fair mall that led to the closure of the city’s largest shopping center on Sunday.

City officials are bracing for more possible protests as Sacramento Kings games are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday nights and the City Council meets Tuesday, and the Kings began fencing off the Golden 1 Center Monday morning to keep non-ticket holders away from the arena.

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Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.