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Judge urges settlement in Stephon Clark family’s suit against city, Sacramento officers

Stephon Clark demonstrations unfold over two days

Eighty-four people, including a Sacramento Bee journalist, were arrested at protests in Sacramento, on March 4. The demonstrations followed a decision not to charge police officers involved in the 2018 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.
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Eighty-four people, including a Sacramento Bee journalist, were arrested at protests in Sacramento, on March 4. The demonstrations followed a decision not to charge police officers involved in the 2018 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.

A federal judge urged attorneys Tuesday to settle the Stephon Clark family’s multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sacramento and the two police officers who shot and killed Clark one year ago.

A no-nonsense U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez ordered the city’s and Clark’s attorneys to arrange a sit-down with U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman by April 12 to begin to form a plan, calling Newman “probably one of the best settlement judges we have” in California’s Eastern District.

“He is expecting your call. He will make time for you ...to make this case a little more workable,” Mendez said.

Mendez also all but ruled out any chance that a civil trial would be heard before 2021, citing projected judicial vacancies and overloaded trial calendars.

“You’re not going to go to trial this year. You’re not going to go to trial next year. It’s just not going to happen in this district,” Mendez said.

Tuesday’s status conference came after nearly two tumultuous weeks of protests in the wake of announcements by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra that no criminal charges will be filed against Sacramento police Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet in the March 2018 shooting.

Clark’s family is asking for more than $20 million from the city and the officers, alleging the officers had no reason to use deadly force against Clark and that police failed to properly train officers in the use of lethal force.

Clark, 22, was fleeing officers who received reports of a man breaking car windows and ran into his grandmother’s backyard. Clark had a cellular phone in his hand that the officers mistook for a gun.

Officers Mercadal and Robinet said Clark had taken a shooting stance when they opened fire. The officers fired 20 shots, and Clark was struck by at least six of the rounds.

Federal reviews of Schubert’s and Becerra’s investigations by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento await. Both will examine whether the shooting violated Clark’s federal civil rights.

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.

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