Sacramento agrees to pay $2.4 million to Stephon Clark’s sons, court filings say

The city of Sacramento has agreed to pay $2.4 million to the children of Stephon Clark to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by his family after police shot the unarmed black man in March 2018, according to newly filed court documents.

The settlement, which comes after the family initially sought $20 million from a lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento, is spelled out in court documents that describe the outcome of negotiations the two sides had in June in a closed session in federal court.

Although court documents revealed at the time that a settlement had been reached, the amount was not revealed until court documents were filed late Wednesday seeking the creation of trust accounts for the children and legal fees for their attorneys.

“The parties recently reached a settlement agreement which obligates defendants to pay to the plaintiffs and their attorneys a gross amount of $2.4 million,” the documents state, an amount that includes attorney’s fees of $600,000 - 25 percent of the total.

The funds are to be placed in trust accounts for the two boys, ages 5 and 2, and paid to them in three tax-free payments between the ages of 22 and 25.

Clark’s parents and grandparents also sued the city and the documents note that “the other plaintiffs to the case have not settled their claims...”

Lawyers for the family could not be reached, and Clark’s brother, Stevante, declined to comment Thursday.

City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood issued a statement to The Bee saying the settlement was a partial resolution of the lawsuit.

“This is a complex case that at its core involves a lawful use of force by Sacramento Police Department officers,” she said. “This fact has been confirmed by both the Sacramento County District Attorney and the California State Attorney General.

“In this case, the city of Sacramento has determined that this partial resolution of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Clark’s family is in the best interest of our community. The agreement brings a key portion of the case to a conclusion, and avoids a potentially lengthy and expensive litigation process.

“Importantly, this partial resolution focuses on providing a structured settlement for the benefit of Mr. Clark’s young children, ensuring there will be resources available for their care and education. The city believes this action on behalf of Mr. Clark’s children will mark another step in the ongoing healing of our community from a tragic event that caused pain to Mr. Clark’s children and family, to the Meadowview community, and to our entire city.”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg released a statement through his spokeswoman:

“I’m proud of the way our community responded to the tragic death of Stephon Clark,” the statement reads. “Residents engaged in peaceful protest to express their anger and grief. Our police department responded by adopting real change in crucial policies such as when to chase suspects on foot and when body worn cameras must be activated. And the state of California responded by adopting a new use of force standard that will save lives. I know the Clark family will never stop mourning the loss of Stephon, but I am also proud of the way they have engaged as productive participants in the debate over how to make Sacramento a better city. I wish all the best for Stephon’s children.”

The settlement follows one of the most controversial police shootings in Sacramento history, an event that sparked massive protests in Sacramento and marches in New York and other cities nationwide.

Anger over the slaying led to numerous reforms at the Sacramento Police Department aimed at curbing the use of force and contributed to the passage last year of a landmark state law that requires law enforcement agencies to release investigations into police shootings to the public for the first time.

The shooting came as officers Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet were chasing Clark the night of March 18, 2018, in the south Sacramento neighborhood of Meadowview after police received reports of someone breaking car windows in the area.

Clark ignored their commands to stop and fled into the backyard of his grandparents’ home. The officers followed and fired 20 shots after he turned toward them with what they later said they believed was a handgun. The item turned out to be a cell phone.

The city released the officers’ body camera videos, as well as helicopter footage that created widespread concern among community activists over why deadly force was necessary and why officers fired 20 shots at Clark.

The Clark family hired a private pathologist for an autopsy that found Clark had been hit by eight bullets, six that were fired into his back. The county’s autopsy disputed that, determining he was shot seven times, three of the rounds striking him in the back.

Anger spawned protests that shut down traffic on Interstate 5 and downtown Sacramento at rush hour, blocked fans from entering the Golden 1 Center for a Sacramento Kings game, shut down the Arden Fair Mall and tarnished Sacramento’s reputation nationally.

The protests included vigils outside the office of District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who declined to file charges against the officers and eventually had to erect a fence around her building to keep the protesters at bay. That fence was removed earlier this year.

The marches continued into this year with one in the city’s exclusive Fab 40s neighborhood that ended with the arrests of 80 people, including protesters and reporters.

Both officers involved in the shooting remain with the department.

Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.
Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.