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Federal authorities decline to pursue civil rights charges against Sacramento officers in Stephon Clark’s shooting death

2019-09-27

Federal authorities have declined to pursue civil rights charges against the Sacramento police officers involved in the shooting death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was killed in his grandparent’s backyard in 2018.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California and the FBI said it “found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal rights charges” against officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet for their fatal confrontation with the 22-year-old father.

“Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed,” the Department of Justice announced in a statement on Thursday.

In March, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also declined to issue criminal charges in the case, arguing the officers were justified in being concerned for their safety.

Clark was shot seven times on March 18, 2018 in the backyard of his family’s home by Mercadal and Robinet, who were responding to reports of a suspect breaking car windows in the Sacramento neighborhood. They chased after Clark, who was spotted by a police helicopter, and fired off more than 20 rounds amid their pursuit.

Both officers said they thought they spotted a gun on Clark as he turned to approach them, but authorities later said no weapon was found on the scene. The young father only had a cell phone on him at the time.

The officer-involved shooting riled the City of Sacramento, sparking nationwide protests on police brutality and racial profiling.

The Sacramento Police Department also on Thursday confirmed its internal investigation into the matter had concluded.

“Although no policy violations occurred in this incident or in the events leading up to it, we are committed to implementing strategies that may prevent similar tragedies in the future,” Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement.

Both officers, who were placed on leave in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, will be allowed to return to active duty.

Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, in a Facebook post railed against the decision and said he planned on meeting with both federal and local authorities.

“These people have failed when it comes to accountability,” he wrote.

The federal investigation into Clark’s death involved examining witness statements, audio and video recordings, as well as dispatch records, police reports and autopsy reports to determine whether the officers intended to use unreasonable force.

In declining to file criminal charges against the officers earlier this year, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert cited body camera footage that sees one of the cops demanding Clark show his hands. She additionally pointed to officers’ claims that they saw a flash of light – one officer mistook it for the muzzle of a flash gun while the other believed it was the light reflecting off a firearm.

With News Wire Services