Crime - Sacto 911

What’s next: Lawsuits, investigations in Stephon Clark shooting far from over

The legal proceedings in the Stephon Clark shooting are far from over.

District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Saturday that the two officers who killed Clark won’t face criminal charges. But lawsuits, additional investigations and possible disciplinary proceedings against the officers are ongoing. Police Chief Daniel Hahn and Mayor Darrell Steinberg reaffirmed the city’s commitment to reform department policies, and Steinberg endorsed legislation aimed at tightening the laws on the use of deadly force.

A look at what’s ahead:

Million-dollar litigation

A lawsuit filed by Clark’s family in January seeks at least $20 million from the city of Sacramento and the two police officers. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Clark’s grandparents, parents and two young sons, was filed in U.S. District Court under federal civil rights laws.

Separately, Clark’s family filed a wrongful death claim against the city last September seeking between $15 million and $35 million. One of the family’s lawyers, Dale Galipo of Los Angeles, won a $6.5 million award in 2017 for the family of Johnathan Rose, a mentally ill man shot to death by a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy. The award was reduced by a judge to $4 million.

“Although the D.A. foreclosed on the possibility for justice through the criminal system, we will pursue justice for Stephon’s family in the civil courts with all vigor,” Ben Crump, another lawyer for the family, said in a prepared statement Saturday.

A second look

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is believed to be close to wrapping up his own investigation into the Clark shooting. Becerra announced the investigation last March, shortly after Clark was gunned down, saying his office would provide “some independent eyes” to the case. Becerra said at the time that he has “independent authority” to bring charges regardless of Schubert’s decision.

Disciplinary proceedings

The two officers who shot Clark, Terrance Mercadel and Jared Robinet, are facing an investigation by their own department. Sacramento police issued a statement Saturday saying “we will conduct a final policy review covering whether the specific use of force during the incident complied with department policy.”

Asked about the possibility of the officers being disciplined, Steinberg refused to comment Saturday, saying his statements could “prejudice” the review.

He said City Manager Howard Chan would have final say on any discipline, not the mayor or his fellow City Council members. Chan, through his spokesman Tim Swanson, declined comment on the investigation as well.

Steinberg and Police Chief Hahn did reiterate their commitment to making policy changes on the use of force by officers. Becerra issued a lengthy series of recommendations in January, calling for officers to be more cautious about chasing suspects, among other things.

On to the Legislature

The Clark shooting has political ramifications as well. The Legislature is weighing two competing bills — one sponsored by the ACLU, the other by the Peace Officers Research Association of California – that would alter the legal standards on the use of force. The ACLU bill, AB 392, goes much further and would declare a shooting justified only when “there was no reasonable alternative.”

Steinberg, who was Senate president before running for mayor, endorsed the bill Saturday and said he’ll lobby for its passage at the Capitol. Similar legislation failed last year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a statement released after Schubert’s announcement, said, “This must be a time for change.” But he didn’t take a stand on the pending legislation.

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Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.