Two Sacramento police officers who fatally shot an unarmed black man last March will not face federal civil rights charges and will be returned to active duty after an internal investigation conducted by the department cleared them of any wrongdoing, officials said Thursday.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott and the FBI announced Thursday that a federal review of the 2018 shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark found "insufficient evidence" to pursue civil rights charges against Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet. Mercadal is also black. Robinet is white.
The probe did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either officer “acted willfully, with the purpose of using objectively unreasonable force,” Scott’s office told The Sacramento Bee.
The announcement came minutes before the Sacramento Police Department also said an internal investigation found no policy or training violations in Mercadal and Robinet’s actions leading up to Clark’s death. The two will be returned to active duty. Both were placed on desk duty after the shooting.
“This incident has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “Every one of these independent examinations has reached the same finding – the use of deadly force in this case was lawful.
"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," Hahn said.
Clark was shot seven times in his grandparent’s backyard in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood in March 2018 after he ran from officers. The two officers were pursuing Clark after receiving calls about a man breaking car windows and an elderly neighbor's sliding glass door in the area.
Authorities said the officers believed Clark was advancing toward them with a gun in hand. The object was later determined to be a cell phone. His death sparked a year's worth of protests as civil rights groups claimed that race played a role in the shooting.
The California attorney general's office announced in March around the one year anniversary of Clark’s death that it concluded its own investigation and declined to issue state criminal charges against the two officers. Attorney General Xavier Becerra said then evidence showed the officers had reason to believe their lives were in danger.
The city of Sacramento agreed in June to a tentative $20 million settlement in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Clark’s minor sons, parents and grandparents, The Bee reported.
Clark's brother, Stevante Clark, posted on Facebook Thursday that he was in a meeting with federal and local authorities. "These people have failed when it comes to #Accountability," he wrote.
“My job as my brother’s keeper is to keep fighting for accountability and justice. My job is to make sure nothing like this happens ever again in our city,” Stevante Clark told reporters after the police department announced it cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
“We don’t want killer cops on our streets, we’re not going to have killer cops on our streets,” Clark continued. “Sacramento police should know the difference between a gun and a cell phone and my brother should be with us today.”
Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued a statement: “This incident has been investigated at every level and each agency came to the same conclusion. Those conclusions, however, will never change the fact that this was a tragedy and the Clark family lost a loved one.
“As a city and as a police department, we have made many important changes. We changed our foot pursuit policy, our body worn camera policy and will continue to make the changes necessary to make our city safer for our community and our officers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.