Updated 6:58 p.m.
Eighteen months after the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, the Sacramento Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that no action will be taken against the two officers.
The Department of Justice and the FBI released findings of their independent review, which concluded that no federal charges will be filed against Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who shot and killed Clark after pursuing him into a backyard in the south Sacramento neighborhood of Meadowview. Police later learned the home belonged to Clark’s grandparents.
The officers said after the incident that they believed Clark was holding a gun, but it turned out to be a cell phone.
Mercadal and Robinet will return to “full, active duty,” according to a police department press release, which indicated that its internal investigation is now complete, as well.
Clark’s brother Stevante Clark said that while he was not surprised by federal officials’ decision not to press charges, he was at Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn’s decision.
“I did not expect Daniel — our chief, our black chief — to keep these guys on the force,” he said. “I don't want anybody else to have to go through what my family went through."
In a statement, Hahn expressed sympathy for the Clark family, but said that all investigations into this incident have found that Mercadal and Robinet’s use of deadly force was lawful.
“My heart goes out to Ms. Sequita Thompson and Ms. Sequette Clark, to Stevante Clark and to the entire Clark family,” Hahn wrote. “The tragedy that took place after a 911 call to our communications center will always have a profound effect on our Department and Community as a whole. We are forever dedicated to finding reasonable alternatives that may prevent similar tragedies.”
The California Department of Justice completed its own investigation into the case earlier this year and declined to pursue charges against the officers, as did Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.
Clark’s death at the hands of police sparked demonstrations throughout Sacramento, including one at Golden 1 Center that prevented thousands of fans from getting into a Sacramento Kings game.
Sonia Lewis, one of the founders of activist group Sacramento For Black Lives, said there will “absolutely” be demonstrations in response to Thursday’s announcement.
She called the federal and local police decisions “an unfortunate end” to the Clark case, but offered that Clark’s effect on Sacramento will be more than the law enforcement investigations into the shooting.
“In the midst of Stephon Clark’s murder there’s a legacy that is being built that his children and his family will be able to lean on for the rest of their lives,” she said, citing changes to local and state police that raises the standard for when officers can use lethal force.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg pointed out that the Clark shooting has been investigated “at every level,” and that every 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,” he wrote in a statement.
Steinberg also noted that the city and police department has implemented many changes since Clark’s death, including its policies for when officers can pursue individuals and how they use their body-worn cameras.
The Sacramento Police Department says more changes are on the way. It will work with a number of agencies and universities studying interactions and incidents between community members and officers, including the Center for Police Equity, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and the American Leadership Forum.
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