Federal Prosecutors Open Civil Rights Investigation Into Police Killing of Stephon Clark

By Shani Saxon Mar 06, 2019

A civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Stephon Clark was launched by federal prosecutors on Tuesday (March 5), The Guardian reports. Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by two Sacramento police officers in March 2018. 

The civil rights inquiry into Clark’s killing was announced just three days after Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert confirmed that no charges would be filed against Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, the two Sacramento Police Department officers named in the Clark investigation. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are joining forces to determine if Clark’s federal civil rights were violated. 

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott and Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office released a statement about the investigation: "Now that both state and local authorities have completed their investigations into the shooting of Stephon Clark, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, will examine whether the shooting involved violations of Mr. Clark’s federal civil rights," the statement begins. "That examination will involve a review of the substance and results of the state and local investigations, and any additional investigative steps, if warranted."

The Sacramento Police Department responded to news of the federal investigation with its own statement: "We welcome the expertise these law enforcement experts bring to the table, and we believe every layer of objective review helps our community have confidence in the eventual findings," the statement reads. "Once their findings have been reported, we will conduct a final policy review covering whether the specific use of force during the incident complied with department policy."

Tuesday’s developments follow a weekend of protests in response to the decision not to prosecute the officers involved in Clark’s shooting. On Monday (March 4), police arrested 84 demonstrators after claiming the crowd "ignored orders to leave the streets and that some were suspected of keying cars during the march."

Clark’s mother, Se’Quette Clark, expressed her outrage to reporters over the handling of her son’s death. "They executed my son," she said. "They executed him in my mama’s backyard. It is not right." 

In a statement, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said that he hopes this case leads to better policing. "Every set of independent eyes on this case adds to our understanding and our ability to improve how we police our community,” Hahn said. "We have made a commitment that we will continually improve how we train our officers and how we respond to critical incidents, and this is another step in that process."