Sacramento, CA – Police arrested 84 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.
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.
During past protests, activists marched downtown, blocked attendance to a Sacramento Kings game, and shut down Interstate 5.
Police began ordering the protesters to disperse after property owners along their route complained of damage to their property, according to NPR.
Sacramento Police Sergeant Vance Chandler said several homeowners reported their cars had been keyed.
Sgt. Chandler 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," the sergeant 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.
Police arrested 78 people on the bridge. They also detained and released three reporters, according to NPR.
"I was following the marchers as they crossed the freeway overpass on 51st Street," Sacramento Bee reporter Dale Kalser said. "It became apparent as we got to the other side [of the bridge] that there was nowhere to go and that the police had basically sealed everything off.”
"There were 50, 60, 70 people all just sort of cordoned off into this small area at the south end of the overpass," Kalser said. "They just came and started detaining everyone, one by one. And I got caught up in that."
Scott Rodd of the Sacramento Business Journal and William Coburn of the Sacramento State Hornet were also detained and released, NPR reported.
The protests kicked off on Saturday in response to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie 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 mad 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.
“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.”
Sacramento officials had prepared for expected protests ahead of Schubert’s announcement on March 2.