Sacramento, CA – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday that his office’s 11-month investigation had not found reason to criminally charge the officers who shot Stephon Clark.
“From the objective facts, we can see what happened,” Becerra said after he walked reporters through a list of “most critical evidence.”
“Based on those objective facts, we made a determination” that the officers who shot the 22-year-old Clark were in fear for their lives when they opened fire on March 18, 2018.
Becerra repeated multiple times that his investigation was “independent and separate” from the investigation conducted by the Sacramento County district attorney’s office.
“We did it on our own, we did it independently - I want to stress again - and we reached our own conclusions,” he said.
“[We] turned over every stone to find out what we could about those minutes leading up to when Stephon Clark died,” the attorney general said.
He said there was a lot more evidence than what was being presented.
Becerra said that Clark moved from behind the picnic table to within 16 feet of the officers – “halfway to them” - before they shot him.
“The video cam shows Mr. Clark is facing the officers,” he said.
The attorney general also said there was another entrance out of the backyard and that Clark did not go that way to escape the officers.
“That property had entrance and exit to the front yard and from the back yard on both sides,” he said.
Becerra did not mention the suicidal text messages or Internet searches that Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said played a big role in her determination not to charge the officers.
However, when he was asked if that evidence was considered in the attorney general’s investigation, Becerra directed reports to read the entire report from his office.
The attorney general said he was only presenting the best evidence to explain his decision.
He stressed that Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn had invited the California Department of Justice to conduct their independent investigation, and said the entire department had cooperated completely.
Protests kicked off on Saturday after Schubert announced that the officers who fatally shot Clark would not be charged.
Schubert’s decision not to charge the officers who shot Clark came after an almost year-long investigation by the Sacramento Police Department, an expert consultant, and Becerra’s office.
The district attorney held a press conference on March 2, during which she explained that investigators had learned that Clark was suicidal when he was fatally shot by police officers.
She explained that two days prior, Clark had been involved in a domestic violence incident with the mother of his children, and that he was wanted by police for that and a felony probation violation related to it.
Schubert said investigators had discovered a series of text messages on Clark’s phone in which his former girlfriend said he was going to jail for the rest of his life, and said she would testify against him.
Police found numerous internet searches for ways to commit suicide on his phone, and Clark sent his former girlfriend a picture of a pile of Xanax pills and threatened to take them just hours before he was shot.
Schubert said Clark had broken out three car windows, and smashed his grandparents’ neighbor’s sliding glass door with a cinderblock prior to encountering the police that night, but stole nothing.
A police helicopter and officers on the ground spotted Clark as he moved along the side of a house, later identified as his grandparents’ home.
The officers ordered Clark to show his hands and stop, but Clark fled from officers into the backyard of the home.
Both officers pursued Clark, who then turned in a shooting stance and advanced towards officers with an object extended towards them.
Schubert said Clark advanced from about 30 feet away to being only 16 feet away from officers before they opened fire.
In the bodycam video, you could hear an officer yell, "Gun, gun, gun" as Clark took the shooting stance.
One of the officers later said that he saw a flash of light which he believed to be muzzle flash from a gun being fired. The other officer said he thought he saw a reflection of light on a metallic object, Schubert said.
The bodycam video captured the flash of light but the source of the light was unclear.
The object in Clark's hand was later identified as a cell phone.
A forensic examination of the phone later showed that Clark was not recording the officers at the time of the shooting.
The bodycam showed the officers talking immediately after the shooting, discussing if they were hit and how to safely remove what they believed to be a gun.
A toxicology report showed that Clark had alcohol, Xanax, codeine, hydrocodone, marijuana, and cocaine metabolite in his blood.
“This is a difficult day for Sacramento,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at his own press conference outside City Hall after Schubert’s announcement.
Steinberg apologized to the Clark family multiple times and said he hoped the case would be “a tipping point for our community and not a breaking point,” the Sacramento Bee reported.
“Today’s announcement only deepens our commitment to transformational community policing and better training,” the mayor said. “Today’s announcement only deepens our commitment to changing the legal standard from whether a shooting was reasonable to whether it could have been prevented. Today’s announcement only deepens our commitment to making sustained and meaningful investments in our neighborhoods and our young people.”
On Monday, activists demanded that Becerra file charges against the Sacramento police officers who fatally shot Clark on March 18, 2018, since the Sacramento County district attorney would not, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“Enough is enough,” the Reverend Shane Harris, president of the People’s Alliance for Justice, said during a press conference on Monday after he delivered a letter to Becerra’s aide asking the attorney general to file charges.
“Please, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, do the right thing,” Harris said. “Charge Officers Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet with the killing of Stephon Clark.”
The he asked Becerra to “stand with the community on the right side of history,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
Clark’s family has also called for the attorney general to intervene.
“I would like for the attorney general to prosecute the officers,” his brother, Stevante Clark, said Sunday, according to KTLA. “I want justice and accountability.”
Sacramento officials had prepared for expected protests ahead of Schubert’s announcement on March 2.
Police arrested 85 people who were protesting the Sacramento County district attorney’s decision not to charge the police officers who shot 22-year-old Stephon Clark on Monday night.