The Sacramento police officers who fired a total of 20 rounds at Stephon Clark last March, thinking his smartphone was a gun, will not face charges.
It’s been nearly a year since the police shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark made national headlines and set off a series of contentious protests in Northern California. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert may have hoped to bring an end to this divisive saga with a late Friday afternoon press conference announcing there would be no charges against the police who shot Clark.
That decision seems to have had the opposite effect, particularly since Schubert’s announcement dropped personal dirt on Clark while exonerating the officers.
As you see above, Schubert put a significant focus on the appearance of drugs and alcohol on Clark’s toxicology report, text messages in Clark’s phone that hinted at strife between he and his fiancé, and Clark’s internet searches prior to the incident. Critics see zero correlation between these things and the fact that he was shot six times in the back, mostly while on the ground, and are quick to note that Schubert’s campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in law enforcement donations.
NBC Bay Area reports that Clark’s family has called for the California attorney general to prosecute the officers instead. “I want justice and accountability,” Stephon’s brother Stevante Clark told the station. “Our lives are suffering, our hearts are shattered, my family is in agony ever since the callous murder of my brother in my grandmother's backyard.”
In response to the insinuations about Stephon Clark's mental state, his brother said, “No matter what he did on the 16th and the 17th doesn't determine what happened on the 18th.''
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra does have his own active investigation into the matter, and a New York Times analysis says there’s some likelihood Becerra could bring charges now that the Sacramento County DA has declined to.
That might bring resolution for Clark’s friends and family, who’ve seen his name added to the tragic list of police shooting victims like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and so many others. But it’s no immediate comfort to the city of Sacramento, where this weekend’s protests were fairly peaceful, but the atmosphere remains tense.