Sacramento, CA – The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office has announced it will not charge any of the 84 protesters arrested while protesting the decision not to charge the police officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark.
"In the interest of justice, no charges will be filed in any of the cases submitted," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Friday, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Police arrested 84 people on March 4 as they protested Schubert’s decision not to charge the police officers who shot 22-year-old Clark.
“Each protest moving forward we will evaluate the circumstances and make the best decisions at the time with the information that we have to make sure that we keep our communities safe,” Sacramento Police Spokesman Sergeant Vance Chandler told KCRA.
The protesters began at a Trader Joe’s grocery store and then marched through an affluent East Sacramento neighborhood, before trying to shut down a bridge over Highway 50, NPR reported.
Activists said they intentionally targeted the neighborhoods where the city’s decision-makers live, according to KCRA.
“And with this show of force, do you think that there’s going to be a stoppage of what we’re doing?” asked Berry Accius, from the organization Youth Founder. “This is not going to happen. We’re going to continue to do more. We’re going to continue to make people uncomfortable and be inconvenienced.”
During past protests, activists marched downtown, blocked attendance to a Sacramento Kings game, and shut down Interstate 5.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told the city council after the arrests that “there is no doubt that this protest ended differently than the vast majority of protests that we have,” the New York Daily News reported.
Chief Hahn said his department would be reviewing all the bodycam footage from the arrests at the protests and that he would be back to report on his findings to the city council in a couple weeks.
Police began ordering the protesters to disperse after property owners along their route complained of damage to their property, according to NPR.
Sgt. Chandler said several homeowners reported their cars had been keyed.
The sergeant said officers gave 10 orders to disperse the unlawful assembly over a two-hour period before they began making arrests.
"Shortly after we started monitoring the group at [approximately] 7:30 p.m., we established the group was unlawfully assembling by standing in the street," Sgt. Chandler said "We also received information that multiple vehicles in the area were vandalized."
Six people were arrested near the Trader Joe’s parking lot, he said.
NPR reported that protest organizers encouraged people to leave at that point, but a large group moved down 51st street to a bridge above Highway 50 instead.
When protesters moved onto the bridge, they were blocked by police officers who began making arrests.
The protests started on March 2 in response to Schubert’s 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 investigation by the California Department of Justice, and an expert consultant.
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 on March 18, 2018.
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 he made for ways to commit suicide, 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. The suspect 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.
Following the district attorney’s decision, activists begged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to intervene and file charges against the police officers who shot Clark.
On March 5, the day after police made 84 arrests, Becerra announced that his office’s 11-month investigation had not found reason to criminally charge the officers who shot Clark.
“From the objective facts, we can see what happened,” he said after he walked reporters through a list of “most critical evidence.”
“Based on those objective facts, we made a determination” that the officers were reasonably in fear for their lives when they opened fire, the attorney general said.
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 the district attorney 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.