By Sarah Ravani
The district attorney will not prosecute the two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, the unarmed 22-year-old who was killed in his grandmother's backyard nearly a year ago.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a news conference Saturday that Sacramento police Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet reasonably believed Clark was armed with a firearm and that they were in imminent danger.
"When we look at all of these facts and circumstances, we look at all of it. Everything," Schubert said. "As a result, we will not charge these officers with any criminal liability related to the shooting death and use of force on Stephon Clark.
"I think it is quite clear that Mr. Clark was in a state of despair, and he was impaired and it's very sad," she added.
SeQuette Clark, his mother, told the Associated Press she refused to agree with the district attorney's decision not to prosecute the officers.
"They executed my son," she said. "It's not right."
Shortly after the decision was announced, Clark's grandmother Sequita Thompson was rushed to the hospital after experiencing chest pain, said Jamilia Land, a family friend.
"There is no justice here," Land said. "And it is just hard. This is hard to continuously watch."
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement calling for "systematic reforms that reduce inequities, increase community confidence in our criminal justice system and that reinforce the sanctity of human life."
"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," he said. "That must change."
A 61-page report released by Schubert's office describes details of the chaotic events that led up to the police shooting that night on March 18, 2018.
Just two days before the shooting, the police were called to the home of Salena Manni, Clark's girlfriend and mother to his two young sons, for a domestic violence incident.
Manni told officers that Clark had punched and slapped her and called her derogatory names. He also shoved her head into the wall, leaving a 3-inch hole in the wall. A warrant was issued for Clark's arrest, according to the district attorney's report.
In the subsequent 12 hours, Clark, who was on probation for domestic violence charges involving Manni, called Manni 76 times. He also called his probation officer and drafted an email to law enforcement reading, "I'm pretty scared, I'm going to be put in jail."
He also traded text messages with his girlfriend, saying "that he is going to be locked up for the rest of his life, that he is never going to be able to see his children again," Schubert said.
After sending the texts, Schubert said Clark searched more than two dozen sites on how to commit suicide, focusing primarily on drug ingestion. His last text message to his girlfriend was a photo of 10 Xanax in the palm of his hand with the message, "Let's fix our family or I'm taking all of these."
A toxicology report from the night of the shooting determined that Clark had marijuana, Xanax, alcohol, codeine, hydrocodone and cocaine metabolite in his system.
Manni, Clark's girlfriend, repeatedly broke down in tears and had to pause to collect herself at a Sacramento church Saturday evening as she delivered a brief statement about the decision. She said Schubert had wrongly focused on the events leading up to the night Clark was shot.
"They murdered Stephon Clark," Manni said. "That's what this is about. It's not about anything that happened before that. It's about the officers who murdered him, murdered him because he had a cell phone in his hand. And now he'll never come back to us."
On March 18, a 911 caller confronted Clark with a bat after reporting him to police, Schubert said. Investigators determined the car break-in suspect was Clark based on the clothing description and evidence left at the scene.
"There was no evidence that anything was stolen or taken from these cars," she said.
The shooting occurred in his grandmother's backyard after Mercadal and Robinet said they thought he had a gun. Clark was unarmed and holding a cell phone at the time of his death.
But Schubert said the reason she didn't file charges is that evidence showed the officers "honestly, without hesitation, believed he had a gun."
Her decision was based on the officers' "spontaneous statements," which included commands for Clark to show his hands and asking one another if they were hit by gunfire after firing their weapons.
Schubert did not investigate the officers' state of mind before the shooting, their personal lives or toxicology.
The shooting sparked protests in Sacramento and gained national attention as part of a wave of rallies over police treatment of communities of color. Sacramento police tactics and the decision to shoot were also called into question and led the California Justice Department to publish 49 recommendations for reforming use-of-force policies and training.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Saturday that the district attorney's decision was not a surprise and that Clark's death "must be the catalyst for the kind of change that people will look back upon and say out of the depths of pain and anger and injustice came hope peace and real equity for our people."
About 80 people gathered outside the Sacramento Police Department to protest the decision. Sonia Lewis, a leader in Black Lives Matter Sacramento and mother of six sons, said she did not want to see one more young black man die at the hands of police without Schubert holding them responsible.
"What I didn't expect was her blatant disregard and disrespect for his life. It felt like slander," she said. "That was the outrage."
Clark's family, including his two sons, his parents and his grandparents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in January seeking more than $20 million from the city, Mercadal and Robinet. The family alleged that the officers used excessive force and racially profiled Clark.
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