No Charges in Sacramento Police Shooting of Stephon Clark
LOS ANGELES — Two Sacramento police officers who shot and killed an unarmed black man in his grandmother’s backyard last year will not face criminal prosecution, the Sacramento County district attorney announced on Saturday, stirring fresh outrage in a city roiled by protests over the killing.
For nearly a year, community members and activists have demanded police accountability for the death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was killed last March by Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet. The officers had been dispatched to investigate a routine vandalism complaint. Within 10 minutes of their arrival, after a brief pursuit, Mr. Clark was dead.
The shooting touched off waves of protests in Sacramento that shut down busy streets, disrupted sporting events and overtook City Council meetings. Mr. Clark’s death took on national significance amid continuing tensions over discriminatory policing in black neighborhoods and excessive use of force by police officers.
“Was a crime committed? There’s no question that a human being died,” District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said on Saturday in Sacramento. “But when we look at the facts and the law, and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no. And as a result, we will not charge these officers.”
Ms. Schubert said the officers had probable cause to stop and detain Mr. Clark. She added that police officers are legally justified in using deadly force “if the officer honestly and reasonably believes” he is in danger of death or injury.
“We must recognize that they are often forced to make split-second decisions,” she said. “We must also recognize that they are under tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances.”
The officers fired their weapons 20 times in Mr. Clark’s direction within seconds of turning a blind corner. “Both officers believed that he was pointing a gun at them,” Ms. Schubert said. She added that police video showed Mr. Clark was “advancing” on the officers.
Mr. Clark was later found to be unarmed; his cellphone was found under his body.
An autopsy released by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office in May found at least seven bullets had hit Mr. Clark.
A comprehensive analysis of police video footage by The New York Times found that gunfire continued after Mr. Clark had fallen to his hands and knees. Six of the seven shots most likely hit Mr. Clark as he was falling or was already on the ground, according to The Times’s analysis. Three minutes passed after the shooting before police officers identified themselves to Mr. Clark, and he did not receive medical attention for six minutes.