SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento Police Department on Thursday cleared Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who fatally shot Stephon Clark in March 2018. The police agency said their officers did not violate department policy or training.
“This incident has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Chief Daniel Hahn said in a prepared statement.
“Every one of these independent examinations has reached the same finding – the use of deadly force in this case was lawful. Our internal investigation concluded that there were no violations of department policy or training.”
“The officers involved in this case will return to full, active duty,” he said, clearing the officers of any wrongdoing.
Mercadal and Robinet have been working administrative assignments since the shooting, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The expected announcement came just three minutes after U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott and the FBI announced their own investigation into whether the officers had violated Clark’s civil rights was closed, saying it “found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges against the Sacramento Police Department officers involved.”
“The federal investigation sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Clark’s death was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer’s actions violated federal criminal civil rights statutes,” Scott’s office said.
“Under the applicable federal law, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer’s use of force was objectively unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances at the time and that the officer acted willfully, with the purpose of using objectively unreasonable force.”
Clark was shot in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18, 2018, after police responded to reports of a man breaking car windows. Clark failed to comply with officers commands and ran from police in the darkness of night and was ultimately chased into a backyard. He was holding a cell phone, which officers mistook for a weapon, the department said.
Raw video footage of Stephon Clark shooting:
“Currently in meeting with FBI Justice Department and Sacramento PD,” posted Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clark, on Facebook about 2 p.m. Thursday, “These people have failed when it comes to #Accountability.”
“We just left a meeting with (Scott) and Chief Hahn,” Stevante Clark said in a phone interview. “And the Clark family is failed again. Justice is denied.”
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In March, nearly a year after the shooting, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert also cleared Mercadal and Robinet, and did not file criminal charges against the two officers. In a news conference at the time, Schubert said the officers “acted lawfully under the circumstances” and the shooting was justified. California Attorney General Xavier Becerrra, who conducted his own investigation, came to a similar conclusion, reported The Sacramento Bee.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who has described the shooting as a deep wound to the city, issued a brief statement Thursday afternoon: “This incident has been investigated at every level and each 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.
“As a city and as a police department, we have made many important changes. We changed our foot pursuit policy, our body worn camera policy and will continue to make the changes necessary to make our city safer for our community and our officers. “
Sacramento City Councilman Larry Carr, who represents the Meadowview area where Clark was shot, called the shooting a tragedy, but said good had come out of it.
“It led to some significant reforms in terms of police use of force not only in the city but across the state,” Carr said. “It has led to us having a better police force and more transparency about what happens in use of force incidents, which makes a stronger bond between the police and community.”