Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento police officers who killed Stephon Clark are back at work, but not on patrol

Watch Sacramento police shoot Stephon Clark dead (2-minute edit)

The Sacramento Police Department has released body cam footage of the Stephon Clark shooting where officers fatally shot the unarmed black man who was holding his cellphone in his grandparents' backyard.
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The Sacramento Police Department has released body cam footage of the Stephon Clark shooting where officers fatally shot the unarmed black man who was holding his cellphone in his grandparents' backyard.

The two Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark last month have returned to work, as the Police Department continues to conduct an administrative investigation into the incident, department spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler said Friday.

The officers went back on modified duty April 9 and are not on patrol for safety reasons, Chandler said.

The department's management looks into "all the details of the incident" when deciding to allow an officer involved in a critical incident to return to work, he said. Those factors can include the circumstances leading up to the incident, witness statements and crime scene evidence.

The Sacramento Police Department has not named the officers since the March 18 shooting, citing concerns about their safety because both have received threats.

"We will continue to evaluate that on a day-to-day basis based on the threats," Chandler said about releasing their names.

Sonia Lewis, a member of Black Lives Matter Sacramento and a Clark relative, said she and other community members are frustrated with the police process following the March 18 shooting.

She questioned whether officers should have the ability to go on paid leave in all police shootings, regardless of the circumstance.

“I think there's a lot of protocols in (the Sacramento Police Department) that need to be addressed and reconfigured when it comes to officer-involved shootings," she said. “I think they would be more inclined to think before they pull the trigger."

Tim Davis, president of the Sacramento police union, said officers in police shootings have a right to a “fair and legal process” before an employer takes action to dock pay, impose discipline or terminate.

“The Sacramento Police Department has fired cops in the past, they disciplined cops when it’s appropriate, that's just part of how things work,” he said. "Those have always been done by following proper procedures ... only after a completed investigation."

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Friday he had not yet spoken with Police Chief Daniel Hahn about the officers' status and declined to comment on the matter until he speaks with the chief.

The Stephon Clark shooting drew national attention to the Sacramento Police Department and sparked conversations about use-of-force policies and de-escalation tactics. The incident played out in south Sacramento's Meadowview neighborhood after a resident reported someone breaking car windows and hiding in a nearby backyard.

The helicopter unit describes seeing a man break the sliding glass window of a neighboring house, but did not capture that on video.

Initial body camera and helicopter footage shows two officers responding and running into a backyard after spotting Clark.

One officer yells, "Show me your hands. Gun, gun, gun," before both officers fire at Clark. A cellphone was found under Clark's body, and no weapon was found by police. It was determined that the backyard was at his grandparents' house.

While the department has not released the names of the two officers involved, civil rights attorney John Burris identified them as Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet after the Sacramento Police Department released footage of the incident three days after the shooting.

The department was required to release footage of critical incidents and officer-involved shootings within 30 days after city leaders passed police transparency measures in November 2016.

A separate source identified Mercadal as one of the two officers in the days following the shooting, saying he was an African American man who attended Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove and patrolled the neighborhood where Clark was shot.

He began working as a community service officer in Sacramento in 2015 after a brief stint as a police officer trainee in Oakland, according to Transparent California, a salary database of public employees run by a fiscal conservative think tank. Prior to that, he served in the Olive Branch Police Department in Olive Branch, Miss., about 25 miles from Memphis.

Robinet joined the department in 2014, according to Transparent California. In 2016, he made $125,144, including overtime pay and benefits.

Recent cases of alleged police misconduct and officer-involved shootings show how an officer's employment status following critical incidents can vary.

The Sacramento Police Department announced Officer Anthony Figueroa, who punched a man in Del Paso Heights last April after an alleged jaywalking violation, would return to patrol roughly seven months after the incident was filmed by a bystander. He was put on paid leave shortly after the incident but returned after an internal investigation.

Sacramento County eventually settled a lawsuit with Nandi Cain, the man punched by Figueroa, after he claimed he was mistreated while at the Sacramento County Main Jail.

A separate Cain suit against the city of Sacramento and the department is ongoing.

Sources told The Sacramento Bee last June that the department moved to fire one of two officers involved in the 2016 police shooting of Joseph Mann on Del Paso Boulevard. The department and city officials declined to comment on the matter, calling it a personnel issue.

In that case, Officer John Tennis was initially taken off patrol and placed on desk duty, police said. He was then placed on paid leave months later, pending the results of the department's internal investigation. Tennis would later tell the Sacramento News & Review that he was fired following the department's investigation into the shooting.

The second officer in the Mann shooting, Randy Lozoya, retired. It is not clear whether Lozoya faced any discipline in connection to the shooting; police disciplinary records are kept confidential under state law.

Ryan Lillis contributed to this report.

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