Feds Decline to Charge Officers in Shooting Death of Stephon Clark

a young man joins others at a demonstration outside the Sacramento City Hall to protest the shooting of Stephon Alonzo Clark, by a pair of Sacramento Police officers, on March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Two Sacramento police officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard in 2018 won’t face criminal charges, federal investigators announced Thursday.

The announcement wraps up a joint investigation by U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott and the FBI into the death of Clark, who was unarmed and clutching a cellphone when police fired 20 rounds at the father of two. After reviewing evidence gathered by local and state law enforcement agencies, the federal investigators found “insufficient evidence” to bring charges against officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet.

Scott said he met with Clark’s family to inform them of the investigation’s results, which align with Sacramento District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert’s contentious decision not to pursue charges this past March. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also declined to bring charges against the two officers in March.

The officers responded to a complaint that a man wearing a black hoodie and dark pants was breaking into cars on the night of March 18, 2018. Aided by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, the officers followed Clark through a south Sacramento neighborhood with the chase ending in his grandparents’ backyard.

Moments after yelling “show me your hands,” the officers unloaded 20 shots and killed the black man – who wasn’t clutching a weapon, only a cellphone. The incident was recorded by the officers’ body cameras but portions after the shooting are muted.

No firearms were found near Clark, who was shot several times in the back with his family just feet away in their living room.

Facing intense pressure from Sacramento residents and activists, law enforcement released the helicopter and body camera footage. The disturbing footage prompted protests in Sacramento and other cities, and Clark’s family responded with a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit in January 2019.

The city has since reached a tentative $2.4 million settlement with Clark’s two sons but is still litigating his grandparents’ and parents’ remaining federal claims. The parties are scheduled to appear in Sacramento federal court for a status conference on Oct. 24.

Not only will the officers avoid charges, they will soon be returning to active duty, the police department announced separately Thursday.

Police Chief Daniel Hahn said that while his heart goes out to Clark’s family, he believes the investigations prove that the officers didn’t violate department policy.

“This incident has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels. Every one of these independent examinations has reached the same finding – the use of deadly force in this case was lawful,” Hahn said in a statement. “The officers involved in this case will return to full, active duty.”

Hahn added that the department has partnered with activists and local universities to develop better use of force and racial bias training strategies.

Clark’s brother, who met with Hahn and the federal investigators Thursday, wasn’t satisfied with either development.

“Justice delayed, is justice denied,” Stevante Clark said at a press conference. “Today, justice was denied to Stephon Clark for the third time.”

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