Sacramento Police Shooting

SPEAKING OUT — Stevante Clark stands on a desk as he shouts the name of his brother Stephon Clark, who was fatally shot by police a week earlier, during a 2018 meeting of the Sacramento City Council in Sacramento. Prosecutors announced Saturday the two officers involved in the shooting will not face charges.

SACRAMENTO — The two Sac­ramento police officers whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black man last year prompted na­tion­wide protests will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Saturday.

Sacramento County District At­tor­ney Anne Marie Schubert said Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet used lethal force lawfully. The officers have said they thought Stephon Clark, a vandalism suspect, had a gun but investigators found only a cellphone.

“We must recognize that they are often forced to make split-sec­ond decisions and we must rec­og­nize that they are under tense, uncertain and rap­id­ly evol­ving circumstances,” Schu­bert said.

The city has been bracing for pro­tests ahead of the decision, with business owners warned by a business association and state gov­ernment workers told by leg­is­lative officials in recent days to stay away from downtown at least through the weekend.

Schubert said the decision not to file charges against the of­fic­ers “does not diminish in any way the tragedy, the anger and the frustration that we heard since the time of his death.”

She added: “We cannot ignore that there is rage within our com­munity.”

Protests after the shooting were largely peaceful but dis­rupt­ed downtown professional bas­ket­ball games and freeway traffic.

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, al­leg­ing that the officers used ex­ces­sive force and that he was a victim of racial profiling.

One of the officers who shot Clark is black and the other is white, police said.

Passions were more inflamed by conflicting autopsy results.

Police said Clark was facing of­fic­ers when he was killed, mo­ving forward with his arms ex­tend­ed and an object in his hands.

Police video of the shooting does not clearly capture all that hap­pened after Clark ran into his grandmother’s backyard.

It shows him initially moving tow­ard the officers, who are peek­ing out from behind a corner of the house, but it’s not clear wheth­er he was facing them or that he knew the officers were there when they opened fire after shout­ing “gun, gun, gun.” The video shows Clark staggering side­ways and falling on his stom­ach as the officers continue shooting.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the path­ol­ogist whose study of chronic trau­matic encephalopathy in foot­ball players prompted the NFL to adopt new safety rules de­signed to prevent concussions, said the autopsy he conducted for the family showed police shot Clark seven times from behind.

The official autopsy made pub­lic later said Clark was most likely shot as he approached police, consistent with the officers’ story. The pathologist retained by the Sac­ramento County coroner said Omalu mistook an exit wound for an entry wound, leaving the im­pression that police first shot Clark from the back, though Omalu defended his conclusion.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is conducting his own investigation at the request of local officials.

Use-of-force experts have said there was little chance the of­fic­ers would face criminal charges under court decisions that let of­fic­ers use deadly force when they have a reasonable fear of being harmed. The standard makes it rare for officers to be charged after a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted.

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