After both the Sacramento district attorney and the California state attorney general both declined to press criminal charges against the officers who shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home nearly a year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it would be launching a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott and Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office said in a released statement: “Now that both state and local authorities have completed their investigations into the shooting of Stephon Clark, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, will examine whether the shooting involved violations of Mr. Clark’s federal civil rights. That examination will involve a review of the substance and results of the state and local investigations, and any additional investigative steps, if warranted.”
Sacramento D.A. Anne Marie Schubert announced Saturday that she would not be holding the officers criminally liable for Clark’s death. She laid out an elaborate speculative narrative involving what may have been on Clark’s mind at the time of the shooting, all as a means of removing culpability from the officers.
Similarly, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday that his office would not be charging the officers either. Unlike Schubert, Becerra did not use the personal details of Clark’s life and his interactions with his girlfriend to make the case as for why the officers were not criminally liable.
“Clark’s phone was forensically examined and the contents revealed communications between Clark and friends and family via phone calls and text messages, as well as internet searches, which provided investigators with some insight into Clark’s whereabouts and activities and possible state of mind prior to the shooting,” Becerra’s report stated. “We did not rely on this evidence in determining whether criminal charges against the officers are warranted because it did not directly bear on the central question of the officers’ state of mind since they did not know about it.”
As has been the routine in situations similar to this, Becerra put the onus of peace and forgiveness on the Clark family—a family that is, in his words, “left grieving and seeking answers.”
“I know this is not how Clark’s family wanted this story to end,” Becerra said. He said the decision his office had to make was a “tough call.”
“It’s never easy,” he added. “The family was patient throughout through their grief and anger. These kind of tragedies—they’re tough.
“I don’t think these officers feel like it’s over,” he continued. “There’s no win here. I think the Clark family can help us move forward.”
Since the DA’s announcement on Saturday, activists have been taking part in demonstrations all over the city.
On Sunday, the city’s largest shopping mall—Arden Fair—closed without ever opening for the day when activists staged a sit-in there in Clark’s name. On Monday, activists intentionally took their protest to the richest neighborhood in East Sacramento, resulting in the arrest of more than 80 people.
Tuesday saw activists take their outrage to the Sacramento City Council meeting, where, one by one, they took the podium to express their frustration and displeasure with the DA’s decision. They also spoke out against the arrests that were made during Monday night’s protest.
Black Lives Matter activists also had sit-ins at Sacramento police headquarters. Tanya Faison, the founder of the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter, told ABC10 that the “Occupy the Police Station” protest was done to put pressure on the police chief to fire officers Jared Robinet and Terrence Mercadal—the two officers who shot and killed Clark.
At the end of the day, all anyone wants is for black lives to matter as much as anyone else’s.
When police are able to bring non-black mass shooters in alive and unharmed, the question repeatedly becomes what is it about black people that you find so threatening?
Perhaps the Justice Department can help everyone figure that out.