Sacramento prosecutors announced they will not file criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed unarmed 22-year-old Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard nearly a year ago because the officers “acted lawfully under the circumstances.” Officers fired twenty rounds at Clark, who is black, hitting the father of two as many as eight times, including six in the back.
The March 18, 2018 shooting sparked a national outcry and protests over the continued use of deadly force by police against unarmed black men. Following a year-long investigation, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert released a 61-page report Saturday that declared Clark’s death a “tragedy,” but cleared the officers of wrongdoing. “That review, based on video recordings, autopsy reports and witness interviews, found that the officers’ actions were legal based on the situation they that believed they were in,” the Sacramento Bee reports.
“The evidence in this case demonstrates that both officers had an honest and reasonable belief that they were in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury,” Schubert wrote in a seven-page summary that accompanied the report. “Therefore, the shooting of Mr. Clark was lawful and no criminal charges will be filed.” Officers were responding to a call to police from a neighbor reporting that someone had been breaking into cars. When police arrived on the scene, they said they thought Clark had a gun, which turned out to be an iPhone. “There is no question that the death of Stephon Clark is a tragedy, not just for his family but for this community,” Schubert said. “My job as a district attorney is to make sure that we conduct a full, fair and independent review of this shooting. That job means that I follow the facts in the law and that, in that process of this review, that we treat everyone with dignity, grace and fairness.”
“We must recognize that [police officers] are often forced to make split-second decisions. We must also recognize that they are under tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances,” Schubert said. “That is the crux of this whole case: Did the officers have an honest and reasonable belief they needed to defend themselves?” Prosecutors said Saturday that they did.