Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento police finish investigation of Stephon Clark shooting. Now DA must decide if laws were broken

Stephon Clark was shot March 18. Here’s what’s happened since

Stephon Clark was shot by Sacramento Police officers on March 18, 2018. The shooting prompted major protests and resulted in police department policy changes. See a timeline of the events that have transpired since that night.
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Stephon Clark was shot by Sacramento Police officers on March 18, 2018. The shooting prompted major protests and resulted in police department policy changes. See a timeline of the events that have transpired since that night.

Seven months after the officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark, the Sacramento Police Department has completed its criminal investigation of the fatal encounter.

Thursday, the department announced it had sent its investigation to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Schubert will review the findings to determine if criminal charges should be filed against either of the officers who fired shots.

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed receipt of the “police report and related materials” Thursday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Shelly Orio.

“Because this matter is under review and is still pending, ethical obligations prevent us from commenting further at this time,” Orio said in an email. “Once a decision is made, further details will be provided.”

Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet shot Clark at least seven times on the night of March 18, apparently mistaking his cellphone for a gun after chasing him around a blind corner into the backyard of his grandmother’s Meadowview home. Mercadal and Robinet returned to work April 9.

Mercadal and Robinet were identified as the involved officers by an Oakland civil rights attorney. The Sacramento Police Department has not identified the two officers.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn asked Becerra to review the DA’s findings after community activists questioned the independence of Schubert’s review.

“Our role has been to conduct a thorough investigation and give the Sacramento County District Attorney and State of California Department of Justice the information they need to reach a decision,” said Hahn in a statement. “We have taken this responsibility seriously, and we have delivered on our promise to thoroughly pursue the facts and report them.”

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed receipt of the materials but declined to comment.

Stevante Clark, Stephon Clark’s brother, declined to comment to The Bee but posted a statement on Instagram criticizing the department for not sharing details of the investigation with the family.

“Astonishingly, these details have even been completely concealed from the Clark Family, which does not promote transparency in the slightest,” he wrote.

It is routine for the department to keep its findings confidential, with the district attorney deciding which parts of the investigation to make public in its report.

Though state law and current case law gives wide latitude to officers in their use of deadly force, Clark also pushed for criminal charges against the officers who fired on his brother, urging “the community of Sacramento to come together to put pressure on District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to press full charges against these officers.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement that he is “hopeful that the District Attorney and the Attorney General will move expeditiously to reach its findings and recommendations.”

Steinberg also pointed to changes the police department has made in the wake of the Clark shooting, including introducing a new foot pursuit policy to reduce confrontations.

Sacramento Police Department spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler said the department has an ongoing internal review that is not complete — a separate inquiry from the criminal investigation — and has not decided whether to open an internal affairs investigation in the case. An internal affairs investigation would examine if any officers involved in the incident broke department policies.

“We have not completed the department review of the incident, which includes looking at all the policies and procedures, actions of all officers, and if those actions were appropriate to the circumstances,” said Chandler.

Sacramento police shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark Sunday night, March 18, 2018. Clark was unarmed and holding only a cell phone.

After body camera footage of the incident was released, as is required by a Sacramento city ordinance, The Sacramento Bee found that at least one officer had muted his microphone to have a private conversation at the scene. Questions were also raised about the time officers took to render aid to Clark after he was shot.

The shooting sparked massive protests that shut down Interstate 5 and the Golden 1 Center in March. It has also led to an ongoing protest in front of Schubert’s downtown offices, where Black Lives Matter members have been holding demonstrations and barbeques three times a week since the shooting.

In the first weeks of that protest, activists entered the lobby and surrounded cars. Some were arrested.

On April 20, Schubert had an 8-foot-tall rental fence installed on a six-month lease that cost $2,094, according to a contract obtained by The Bee through a state Public Records Act request. The contract ended on Oct. 20, but the fence remains.

Black Lives Matter Sacramento co-founder Sonia Lewis said the protests will continue “because (Schubert) needs to know that the community isn’t going anywhere.”

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