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Kelly Kiernan - The State Hornet

From left, Adam Jordan, Sonia Lewis and Patrick Durant wait outside the Sacramento District Attorney’s office Saturday, March 2 as they watch a live video feed of the announcement regarding the fate of the officers involved in the shooting death of Stephon Clark last March. The officers will not be criminally charged for fatally shooting Clark, according to Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

No charges filed against officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark

Sacramento County District Attorney says no crime was committed during incident

March 2, 2019

The Sacramento District Attorney’s office announced Saturday that no charges will be filed against two officers who shot and killed unarmed 22-year-old Stephon Clark on March 18, 2018.

The announcement comes almost two weeks shy of the anniversary of the fatal police shooting by Sacramento Police Department officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet.

“Was a crime committed?” District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert asked reporters following the press conference. “There is no question a human being died. The answer to that question is no, and, as a result, there was no criminal liability.”

Schubert makes her case

Eric Jaramishian – The State Hornet
Stevante Clark announces to members of the press that his family will hold a press conference at the Clark residence following Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s announcement on Saturday. The officers who fatally shot Stevante’s brother Stephon Clark last March will not be criminally charged for his death.

In the press conference, Schubert explained the details of the case, showing body worn camera footage and helicopter camera footage, as well as supplemental photos and images of the scene of the shooting and surrounding area. The footage was made public less than 72 hours after the shooting occurred.

Schubert detailed Clark’s drug use via a toxicology report, as well as text message exchanges and mobile search history allegedly meant to help understand Clark’s mindset at the time of the shooting. Examination of Clark’s phone did not reveal video footage of the March 18 incident.

Schubert started the conference by explaining the evidence that was provided to the District Attorney’s office by the Sacramento Police Department and the California Department of Justice, which investigated the incident separately.

Clark was shot and killed in his grandparents’ backyard in Meadowview. The Sacramento Police Department officers involved — Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet — were originally called to the area to investigate a report of a person breaking into backyards and cars.

After initial contact was made in the front yard of the home, Mercadal and Robinet chased Clark into the backyard, and as Clark stood about 15 feet away from them, fired 20 shots — one in the neck, five on the right shoulder and back area and another to the side of his body. The eighth bullet was found in Clark’s left leg, according to an independent autopsy performed by Dr. Bennet Omalu.

RELATED: Stephon Clark autopsy shows 6 gunshot wounds to the back

“We know that when the officers yelled ‘show me your hands,’ he did not stop and he continued to advance,” Schubert said. “(We) know that from helicopter video and because that’s what the cops said he did.”

Schubert said that the investigation indicated that Clark advanced 15 feet towards Mercadal and Robinet, prompting them to shoot.

Schubert, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi and Assistant District Attorney Mike Neves were involved in the investigation, along with the head of the homicide investigations unit and the head of the special investigations unit.

A combination of footage and 911 calls showed a timeline of Clark vandalizing three vehicles, moving to a backyard of an 89-year-old man’s home where he broke a rear sliding glass door with a cinder block and later fleeing to his grandparents’ home.

Schubert said that evidence proved Clark did not steal any items from any of the vehicles.

When showing overhead helicopter footage, Schubert pointed out where Clark’s grandparents live, noting the two Ford Explorers owned by the 911 caller and mapped out the path of both Clark and the officers.

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When reviewing DNA and glass analysis, Schubert said the results linked Clark to all three car break-ins and showed he used the cinder block to carry out the damage.

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“It is important for people to understand that dynamics changed,” Schubert said before showing Mercadal’s body camera footage.

As Mercadal’s footage was shown, one officer could be heard saying, “I think I shot about 5 times.”

“I can’t see the gun,” his partner replied.

When Mercadal and Robinet confronted Clark in his grandparents’ backyard, they were met by Clark standing in a “shooting stance,” Schubert said, and both officers said they saw a flash of light. Mercadal and Robinet said separately that they believed the flash of light to be that of a firearm, while it is now believed any flash of light was actually coming from Clark’s cell phone.

Schubert highlighted the importance of Mercadal and Robinet’s demeanor following the shooting. She said the fact that Mercadal and Robinet’s voices sounded strained after the incident and the fact that they displayed belabored breathing indicates they believe that Clark was armed.

“Some may ask why we consider the demeanor of the officers,” Schubert said. “The dynamic changed.”

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According to Schubert, part of the investigation included looking into Clark’s phone to see if Clark had shot video of the March 18 incident and to see how his personal life may have affected the days leading up to his death.

Schubert shared text messages between Clark and his girlfriend and the mother of his children, Salena Manni, where she allegedly told him that she reported a March 16, 2018 domestic violence incident to the police.

“She’s very clear in those text messages that she’s going to testify against him,” Schubert said.

Schubert also said that Clark’s internet search history revealed searches related to Sacramento Police department, the Sacramento District Attorney’s office, domestic violence, suicide and suicide by drug ingestion.

The investigation into Clark’s phone records revealed that he was seeking Xanax via text after the domestic violence event leading up to the incident, Schubert said.

Schubert presented the toxicology report, which showed that Clark had alcohol, Xanax, codeine, hydrocodone, marijuana and cocaine metabolite in his system, a fact that was supported by two independent pathologists, she said.

After the full announcement, Schubert took questions from the audience.

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In response to a question from the audience at the press conference, Schubert said she would not characterize what happened as a “suicide by cop,” a method of suicide in which an individual acts recklessly to provoke a lethal response by law enforcement. She added that “many things were weighing heavily” on Clark’s mind at the time of the shooting.

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Clark family responds to the decision

Eric Jaramishian – The State Hornet
SeQuette Clark, mother of Stephon Clark, left, is comforted by her son Jhailen Clark as she and members of her family hold a press conference at their home March 2, 2019 following an announcement from Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert regarding the shooting death of her son.
The family called the media meeting to respond to Schubert’s announcement that the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon will not be criminally charged.

The Clark family held their own press conference at their family home in Meadowview on Saturday after the district attorney’s press conference.

Stevante Clark, Stephon’s brother, briefly appeared outside the district attorney’s office while Schubert was inside speaking, but requested not to talk to the press.

Stephon’s mother, SeQuette Clark, opened the family press conference by saying her family is outraged by the decision.

“They executed him in my mom’s backyard and it is not right, it is not right,” SeQuette said. “However, the DA has shown us time and time again throughout her terms, who she is and what she stands for, which is not fairness or justice. She has never charged an officer for homicide and there have (sic) been a hundred plus homicides by police on civilians. My son is just the one that will break the mold because we’re not going to accept that.”

SeQuette said that her lack of belief in the justice system has not changed since the decision.

“(The justice system is) not for the black community,” she said. “It’s what they’ve shown us time and time again.”

Schubert and SeQuette met before Schubert announced the decision on Saturday, which both women mentioned in their respective press conferences. When they met, Schubert told SeQuette she would be examining personal parts of Clark’s life through his phone records.

“I just told her that, you know, hey, I’m a parent,” SeQuette said. “I knew what was going on in his life. And that has nothing to do with the accident. What was on his cell phone with him and his baby’s mother has zero to do with the actions of the police officers at the time of his homicide. They do not.”

SeQuette said even though she met with Schubert before the district attorney’s press conference, Schubert would not reveal the outcome of the decision.

“She told me that she had commitments to not disclose her decision until the press conference,” SeQuette said. “At that point, I told her that the meeting was over.”

When asked about what the family will do next, SeQuette responded it’s time for the community to start fighting for justice.

“This is just the beginning,” SeQuette said. “The fight for justice has just to begin. It has not begun. We have sat and waited patiently for their response. So we have not had any fight for justice. We have not begun to fight.”

Jamilia Land, a friend of Clark’s family and member of CA Families United for Justice, spoke briefly at the family’s press conference and issued a statement shortly after.

“The officers did not identify themselves as police, they did not issue any verbal warning, and they did not take any measures to de-escalate,” Land said in the statement. “Stephon was unarmed and in no way a threat. Instead, they shot 20 times and hit Stephon at least 8 times. Even then, they did not call for medical care even though he was bleeding profusely.”

Land called for everyone in the state of California to do three things in Stephon’s name: Protest using the chants, “no power, no peace,” demand that the California State Legislature pass AB392 — the California Act to Save Lives written to encourage law enforcement agents to explore alternative methods in situations that may allow for fatal responses — and vote in every single election.

“We miss Stephon every day and that is never going to change,” Land said in the statement. “But we can change Sacramento and we can change California, and we can change the law in every state in this country. Do it for Stephon Clark. For Oscar Grant. For Sahleem Tindle. For Willie McCoy. Let’s end police violence in California.”

The community responds

Outside the district attorney’s office, crowds gathered in protest as the press conference unfolded. People huddled together in the rain to listen to and watch the live stream of the conference.

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Following the announcement of the District Attorney’s office decision, Black Lives Matter Sacramento and supporters gathered in front of the Sacramento Police Department. Crowds shouted “no justice, no peace” as they moved from one location to the other.

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As the crowd grew in front of the police department building, protesters called for the officers involved in the shooting to be fired by Daniel Hahn, Sacramento’s police chief.

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Sacramento’s Black Lives Matter chapter organized the demonstration in front of the police department via Facebook. Immediately following the decision’s announcement, the chapter tweeted about Schubert accepting “campaign contributions from police unions” in the days following Clark’s death.

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Founder of Voices of Youth — a group created to help youth in Sacramento — and community leader Berry Accius has assisted with activism efforts in the region following the fatal shooting.

Of course put the blame on the people,” Accius said in a Facebook post before the announcement Saturday. “The same people who fight against injustice and fight for Justice! We aren’t the ones you need to fear! You should fear that 2 killer cops will still be able to kill unarmed black person again…….Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric or narrative they try to form.”

Les Simmons, board member of Sacramento ACT, said that he was displeased with the decision made by the district attorney’s office.

“This is not the justice the community was looking for, this is not the justice that this young man, Stephon Clark, deserved,” Simmons said. “It was unfair to bring all of Clark’s lifestyle and mindset but not bring in the state of the officers’ lives.”

Simmons said that watching Schubert describe Clark’s emotional state leading up to the shooting was “heart-wrenching.”

“It was heart-wrenching not only to listen to her do that but then to hear her say she was not doing exactly what she was doing,” Simmons said. “It was outright wrong.”

In a SacSend email sent Thursday, Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen replaced his scheduled spring semester town hall meeting with a gathering to honor Clark, as a space where the university community can gather.

The gathering will take place in the University Union on Monday at 9 a.m. with student performances beginning at 10 a.m.

RELATED: President Nelsen’s town hall meeting replaced with Stephon Clark event

Sac State alumnus Marcus Jones protested the district attorney’s decision outside of the Sacramento Police Department on Freeport Boulevard.

“I was upset and pretty much hurt for the family because I know they are seeking justice for Stephon, but the DA should’ve filed charges against those police officers for their wrongdoings,” Jones said.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted a list of “Community Safe Zones,” spaces where families and youth can gather to talk about their thoughts and feelings about the District Attorney’s decision.  

California Governor Gavin Newsom released a statement about the decision, calling for systemic reform in the criminal justice system.

“But most of all, we need to acknowledge the hard truth — our criminal justice system treats young black and Latino men and women differently than their white counterparts. That must change,” Newsom said in the statement.

Will Coburn, Storm Ray, Eric Jaramishian, Jose Fabian, Janelle Williams, Clarissa Pacheco, Andres Sanchez, Eucario Calderon, Kelly Kiernan, Francina Sanchez and Shaun Holkko contributed to this report.

RELATED: GALLERY: Protesters clash outside statewide law enforcement expo

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