While our attention has been focused on the shooting death of Botham Jean at the hands of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, another important piece of news has slipped relatively under the radar. Sacramento’s mayor said earlier this week that the investigation into the shooting death of Stephon Clark was nearing completion.
The Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office and the California State Department of Justice opened investigations into the shooting of 22-year-old Clark, who was standing in his grandmother’s backyard holding a cell phone at the time. Officers said they thought Clark had a gun and fired 20 shots at him. He was hit by at least 7 of them (an independent autopsy done at the family’s request says Clark was hit 8 times) and died at the scene.
In an interview Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told Capital Public Radio, “As I understand it, the investigation will be wrapped up very, very soon.”
The local chapter of Black Lives Matter has been staging actions in front of the office of district attorney Anne Marie Schubert since March, demanding the officers who killed Clark be held accountable for his death.
The officers have never been publicly identified by law enforcement officials out of reported concern for their safety. Their names—Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet—were revealed by a representative from the office of Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris shortly after the shooting. Both officers returned to work in April, while the investigation into the shooting death they caused has lingered on.
Steinberg told CapRadio that the investigation is in its “final stages” and that he understands the public’s “anxiousness and frustration” with the length of time the investigation has taken. He said he wants the investigation to be thorough.
“People will know that the thousands of hours on the forensic side, that all that work has been done the right way,” Steinberg said.
During the same interview, Steinberg expressed his support for a California Senate Bill that would require public disclosure of officer shootings and use-of-force incidents. Current law keeps those records private and confidential. The bill has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed into law.
“One of the most troubling things about the current process is that, even at the end of an investigation, the public doesn’t have a right to see or to know, and that’s not right,” Steinberg said.
Regardless of Steinberg’s stance on law enforcement transparency, how confident are we that we will get satisfaction from any of the investigations into the shooting death of Stephon Clark?
The shooting happened six months ago and was captured on body camera video—some of which has already been released to the public. That the officers are still employed—as far as we know—could also be taken as a bad sign.
And while we do want a thorough investigation, it is hard not to imagine a new narrative being crafted behind the scenes under the guise of thoroughness, and it is that fear that has everyone’s hackles up.
It should go without saying that as is the case in most of these situations (see Botham Jean), we only have the police narrative to go on. The victim is dead and cannot speak for himself. The information the police put out—their “story” is what is put forth as the facts of the case.
So what will we learn when the investigation is actually completed?
Rumors, conjecture and speculation are being entertained in the comment section.