It’s been a year since Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot dead by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento, California. He was 22.
On Monday, the anniversary of Clark’s death, Rev. Al Sharpton gathered with the young man’s family for a memorial in Sacramento, to remember Clark and call for action and reform.
“He had his entire life ahead of him. I’d rather me than him,” Clark’s brother Stevante said at the memorial. “One year later, our hearts are still broken.”
Stevante said the district attorney and the state attorney general were “wrong,” referring to both offices’ decision earlier this month not to criminally charge the officers in Stephon’s death.
When Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced on March 2 that the two police officers who killed Clark would not face criminal charges, she said the evidence supported the officers’ account that Clark was moving toward them and they thought he was pointing a gun. Clark in fact was holding a cellphone.
Protests broke out for days after Schubert announced there would be no charges.
“This case is a national disgrace,” Sharpton said at the memorial Monday. “You make a legal precedent when all a policeman has to do is say ‘I thought’ and he becomes the judge, the jury and the executioner.”
Sharpton and members of Clark’s family called for support for California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s recently introduced legislation that aims to “redefine the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable.”
Sharpton also called for the two officers who killed Clark to be removed from the police force.
“I want justice and I don’t want my grandson’s name to be in vain,” Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson said at the memorial Monday. She condemned the officers for “shooting him like he was nothing.”
SeQuette Clark, Stephon’s mother, also criticized the district attorney for putting her son’s “character on trial” when she announced the lack of charges for the officers.
Schubert had talked about Clark’s cellphone records, saying these showed he had searched online for information about suicide and at one point texted the mother of his kids about killing himself.
Law enforcement “turned out the old playbook of assassinating the character of our children after assassinating them,” Clark family attorney Ben Crump said Monday. “They took this playbook to a whole different level with the suggestion of suicide by cop.”
“He wasn’t trying to commit suicide by cop, he was trying to get home,” he added.
Several other events were planned on Monday to mark the anniversary of Clark’s death.
Civil rights organizer Rev. Shane Harris planned to host a brunch with Salena Manni, the mother of Clark’s two young sons, to honor his memory.
Black Lives Matter’s Sacramento chapter organized a march for Monday night to commemorate Clark’s death.
“The legacy is we’re gonna keep marching in Stephon’s name,” Sharpton said Monday. “You might have killed him a year ago, but you can’t kill the movement.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.