Last year, Sequita Eddy Thompson watched in horror as two police officers shot her 22-year-old grandson, Stephon Clark, to death in the backyard of her Sacramento home. Clark was unarmed, carrying his cellphone, which the cops apparently mistook for a gun.
He was shot either seven or eight times, depending on which autopsy report is cited, but he had no weapon, was apparently on the ground as he was shot, and never received a verbal warning from the cops that they intended to open fire. His killing made national headlines and sparked protests nationwide.
On January 28, his family, including his grandparents, filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Clark also leaves behind his parents and two young sons.
Shot at 20 Times
Clark’s family says the two police officers responsible for the shooting, Terence Mercadel and Jared Robinet, did not identify themselves as they chased Clark through the neighborhood. He was shot at 20 times, and the independent autopsy ordered by the family found eight bullet wounds in Clark’s back.
The county coroner’s autopsy report states that Clark was shot seven times, with three of the shots hitting him in the back. No matter which report is accurate, the life of a young black man with a cellphone ended in a hail of bullets.
The family’s attorney, who also represented the family of Florida shooting victim Trayvon Martin, says that Mercadel and Robinet waited six minutes before trying to perform any life-saving measures on their victim. The lawsuit notes that the unarmed Clark “posed no immediate threat of death or serious injury” to the police officers involved, as he was either on the ground or heading toward the ground when shot in the back.
The lawsuit alleges that Clark’s death resulted from the city’s failure to properly train its law enforcement personnel.
The officers were responding to a call regarding vandalized vehicles at the time of the incident. A police helicopter was used to chase Clark to his grandparent’s backyard, where Mercadel and Robinet killed him. As the lawsuit states, Clark was not suspected of committing any serious crime, and the officers involved knew he was not suspected of a serious crime.
The lawsuit claims the officers had less lethal methods to deal with the situation. The family’s attorney makes no bones about it: Clark came to a violent end in his grandparent’s backyard because the officers saw a black man as a criminal threat.
Still No Criminal Charges for Officers
The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office has not yet announced, nearly a year after Clark’s slaying, whether Mercadel and Robinet will face criminal charges in his death. However, the death of Stephon Clark is far from forgotten. After police helicopter and body camera footage was released after his death, protestors rallied in Sacramento and elsewhere.
As with Black Lives Matter, Clark’s killing was seen as a national, not local, problem. At one rally, Clark’s uncle, Curtis Gordon, said, “This situation seems to happen quite often, that someone who looks like me isn’t going to go home. You really can’t internalize that unless you live it.”
Since then, protestors gather outside the Sacramento District Attorney’s office at least weekly. They accuse Sacramento officials of dragging out the investigation. have dragged out the investigation, noting that findings from the city’s investigation and that of the California Attorney General’s investigation into the killing are still unreleased.
The wrongful death suit may shed some light on the city’s actions, but it can’t bring back a young man or erase the horror of his death from the family.
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