California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that there would not be any criminal charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark last year.
At a press conference, Becerra announced the results of the state Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting. He said it took 11 months for his office to carry out the independent investigation. He met with Clark’s mother, SeQuette, and other family members before the announcement.
“Nothing can bring back Stephon Clark and nothing helps end the pain that his family carries,” Becerra said. “So I want to close by extending my hand to the Clark family. … This report reflects the story my team and I wrote based on the facts and evidence before us ― we did it by the book. But let’s start writing these chapters before shots are fired, before we’re writing a story from a place of grief, anger and anticipation.”
“Our criminal investigation may be over, but our commitment to this community … goes on,” he added. “Accountability must be a cornerstone of all the work we do.”
In March 2018, police officers responding to a call about car windows being broken chased 22-year-old Clark, who was black and unarmed, into his grandparents’ yard and shot him multiple times.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne-Marie Schubert said Saturday that the two cops who shot Clark would not face criminal charges. She said evidence supported the officers’ account that Clark was moving toward them and that they thought he was pointing a gun. In fact, he was holding a cellphone.
Protests broke out after the district attorney’s announcement and have not let up since. At a demonstration Monday night, police arrested dozens of people, including several clergy members and local journalists. Black Lives Matter’s Sacramento chapter planned more protests for Tuesday afternoon.
“This ain’t justice,” the group tweeted after the state attorney general made his announcement.
Later on Tuesday, federal authorities announced that the FBI and the Justice Department’s civil rights division would be investigating whether the shooting involved any violations of Clark’s civil rights.
At the press conference earlier that day, Becerra laid out what he called “the most critical facts” of the shooting on March 18, 2018. The incident occurred over about 22 minutes, he said.
Clark had “committed several unlawful acts,” Becerra said, including breaking the glass door of a home and breaking into cars. He said Clark did not follow officers’ commands and “had advanced significantly” toward them at the time of the shooting. Video footage showed a light near Clark, which Becerra said made it “clear he had something in his hand.” It was a cellphone but Becerra said officers thought it was a gun.
“For a homicide to be justified, the person who has committed the homicide must have reasonably believed he or someone else was in imminent danger, according to the law ― the law we must apply in this case,” Becerra said.
“Make no mistake, there is a lot of hurt in this community today,” he added. “Our investigation can’t change what has happened, but we can make every effort to deliver a fair, thorough and impartial review.”
On Monday, civil rights activist Rev. Shane Harris with the People’s Alliance for Justice had delivered a letter for Becerra, urging him to charge the officers involved in the incident.
“This is Michael Brown. This is Trayvon Martin. This is Eric Garner all over again,” Harris told HuffPost, listing other unarmed black men and boys killed in recent years. “This is why we’re outraged.”
This story has been updated with the federal investigation announcement.
CORRECTION: This story previously referred to the death of Trayvon Martin as a police killing. He was fatally shot by a civilian.