NBC News:– Two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, last year will not be charged, the district attorney announced Saturday.
The shooting of Clark, 22, in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18, 2018, sparked protests. The two officers said they believed Clark had a gun and was in a shooting stance before they fired, but only a cell phone was found.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said that body-worn cameras and other evidence showed the one of the officers shouted at Clark to show his hands, that they took cover during the incident and that they saw a flash of light that one officer believed was the muzzle flash of a gun and the other thought was light reflecting off a gun.
Statements made by the officers asking whether the other was hit seconds after the shooting “support the belief that they honestly, without hesitation believed he had a gun,” Schubert said. Body-worn camera video showed the flash of light, she said.
In determining whether an officer is justified in using deadly force, Schubert said “we must recognize that they are often forced to make split-second decisions.”
Police were called on a report of someone breaking car windows on 29th Street at around 9 p.m. that night, and DNA analysis and other physical evidence has shown that person was Clark, Schubert said.
A search of Clark’s phone also show that he appeared despondent over a domestic violence incident with the mother of his children that occurred two days before the shooting, that he had researched suicide using drugs and alcohol and that he sent the mother of his children a text threatening to take a ten Xanax pills, Schubert said.
Schubert said that was relevant to the investigation because it showed that things were weighing heavily on his mind.
She said toxicology reports after Clark was killed showed the presence of alcohol, Xanax, codeine, hydrocodone, marijuana and cocaine metabolite. Clark was not filming police with his phone when he was shot, she said.
Schubert acknowledged that there was outrage in the community over the shooting.
“I don’t think there’s any question that people will be very upset and very angry,” Schubert said.
“But I want people to understand that the fact that no criminal charges will be filed in this case does not diminish in any way the tragedy, the anger, the frustration that we heard since the time of his death,” she said. “We cannot ignore that.”
Schubert called the death of Clark a tragedy for his family and the community, and said she spoke with Clark’s mother Saturday morning about the investigation findings.She said the review of the shooting only focused on whether a crime was committed, and not other matters like should other police tactics have been used.
There were conflicting autopsy reports in the case. A private autopsy conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu concluded that Clark was shot eight times, with nearly all of the shots striking him from behind.
But the official autopsy made public later said Clark was most likely shot as he approached police, consistent with the officers’ story, the Associated Press reported.
The pathologist retained by the Sacramento County coroner said Omalu mistook an exit wound for an entry wound, leaving the impression that police first shot Clark from the back, though Omalu defended his conclusion.
Clark’s family, including his two sons, his parents and his grandparents, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in January seeking more than $20 million from the city, Mercadal and Robinet, alleging that the officers used excessive force and that he was a victim of racial profiling.
One of the officers who shot Clark is black and the other is white, police said.