Feds Will Not Pursue Charges Against Officers in Stephon Clark Case

Federal authorities announced they would not pursue civil rights charges against two Sacramento police officers who shot and killed an unarmed Black man in 2018. The investigation into the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark was subsequently closed.

The US Attorney for the Eastern District of California and the FBI said on September 26 that an independent federal review “found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges” against the two officers.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) statement said that investigators and prosecutors were unable to find evidence proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the federal statute had been violated. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed,” the statement said.

The two officers were cleared by the Sacramento Police Department just minutes after federal authorities closed the case, The Sacramento Bee reported. The department said that Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet did not violate department policy or training.

“This incident has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn claimedin a prepared statement. “Every one of these independent examinations has reached the same finding — the use of deadly force in this case was lawful. Our internal investigation concluded that there were no violations of department policy or training.”

Hahn continued, “The officers involved in this case will return to full, active duty.”

According to The Sacramento Bee, Hahn’s announcement came only three minutes after US Attorney McGregor Scott and the FBI announced that their investigation was closed.

Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, said he was neither surprised nor shocked by the authorities’ decision. “Currently in meeting with FBI Justice Department and Sacramento PD,” he wrote on Facebook on September 26. “These people have failed when it comes to #Accountability.”

In a phone interview with The Sacramento Bee, Stevante Clark said the Clark family had been failed once again. “I'm not surprised or shocked, we’ve been denied justice for generations. The only thing that caught me off guard, was Chief Hahn is letting one of the officers back to patrol on the streets. That is f— up. Our streets are not safe with a murderer on the streets.”

He continued: “That is just insane. Putting them back on the streets is not going to go well with the city of Sacramento. We should not be paying our tax dollars for people who don’t know how to do their g— d— job. I’m hurt right now.”

Dale Galipo, the Clark family attorney, told the newspaper he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the announcement. Galipo previously reached a $2.4 million settlement with the city of Sacramento on behalf of Clark’s two sons.

Stephon Clark was fatally shot by Mercadal and Robinet in March 2018. An independent autopsy conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu and released on March 30, 2018 found that Clark was struck eight times during the incident. Omalu revealed that the 22-year-old was shot “three times in hislower back, twice near his right shoulder, once in his neck and once under an armpit,” The New York Times reported.

“He was shot from the back,” Omalu told reporters. He added that seven of the eight gunshot wounds could have been fatal. Omalu, who is best known for challenging the National Football League (NFL) over players’ head injuries, said Clark “bled massively.”

The autopsy suggested that Clark lived between three to 10 minutes after being shot. According to The New York Times, it took six minutes for medical assistance to arrive at the scene of the shooting.

Clark’s shooting prompted protests in Sacramento. The victim’s family also accused Sacramento PD of attempting to cover up its officers’ misconduct.

Police initially claimed Clark had “advanced toward the officers” and was holding what they thought was a firearm. No firearm was found on Clark’s body — only his cellphone.

“It's negligent not to be able to recognize the difference between a handgun and a white cell phone, it’s a little troubling,” Galipo told The Sacramento Bee on September 26. “The department’s decision to keep them on the force will always haunt them if they are involved in another shooting.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.