Officers who killed Stephon Clark reveal new details
The officers involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark were responding to a 911 call that a man wearing a black hoodie was breaking car windows in a Sacramento neighborhood. Minutes later, Clark lay dead in the backyard of his grandmother’s home.
While some information has been released about the shooting in the year since it happened, for the first time, the officers’ accounts of the incident are now public in a nearly 800-page report by the Sacramento Police Department.
The file, which was released late Tuesday, also includes police reports and dispatch records about the March 18 shooting that left the 22-year-old dead. The documents were posted on a website after State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that no charges would be filed against the officers.
Here are some of their accounts of the incident:
A car break-in led to a 911 call
Police said they were dispatched to an address in Sacramento at 9:13 p.m.
“The caller stated that the male subject had broken car windows and was now hiding in a backyard,” the report said. “The caller described the subject as a male … wearing a black hoodie and dark pants.”
Sacramento Police officers arrived at the scene five minutes later. Detectives canvassed the neighborhood and saw at least three vehicles with damage believed to have been caused by the suspect, the report said.
In addition, a residence had a sliding glass door shattered and deputies in a law enforcement helicopter saw the suspect break the door and jump the fence into another property, where the shooting happened, according to the report.
Police believed an ‘object’ was aimed at them
Before the shooting, the officers pursuing the suspect said they saw him face them and “advance forward with his arms extended and holding an object in his hands,” the report said. At the time, the officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them.
“When I come around the corner … I left cover and I look and I see that same subject with his hoodie and sweatshirt pulled up and his arms pointed out extended like this,” Terrence Mercadal told detectives hours after he and Jared Robinet shot Clark. To show Clark’s position, Mercadal, who was seated, extended both arms in front of him at chest level and appeared to take a shooting position, according to the report.
“… At which time I looked and based on the light coming off of … my tactical light — it appeared I thought that he had already shot at me because I saw what I believed to be a metallic reflection or muzzle flash — something coming at me,” Mercadal said. “I was scared. I thought that he had shot at me. I think I remember yelling, ‘Gun.'”
A search at the scene found no firearm
After what the report described as an “exhaustive search,” investigators did not find any firearms near Clark’s body.
“The only items found near the suspect was a cell phone,” the report said. It said the body camera captured the officers asking each other if they were OK and whether they had been “hit.”
Later, Mercadal said that Clark was not moving and they couldn’t see the gun. When another officer arrived to provide backup and support, he asked the others if they had found a gun.
Another officer at the scene told Clark, “We need to know if you are okay. We need to get you medics, but we cannot go over to help you unless we know you don’t have your weapon,” the report said. Several discussions followed on what position Clark had assumed when officers shot him.
“The body camera recordings also contain discussions with backup officers regarding the need for a “body bunker” (i.e., a ballistic shield) before they can safely approach Clark,” the report stated.
Grandmother broke down when she saw Clark
In addition to the police reports and detective interviews, the documents also include a transcript of when Clark’s grandmother learned her grandson was shot dead in her backyard. At the beginning of her conversation with the officers at her door, both sides didn’t know of the victim’s personal connection.
Part of the transcript included Clark’s grandmother describing the gunshots and commotion she heard, unaware that her grandson was the victim.
“All of a sudden I heard shots like pow pow pow. I heard four of them,” she said, according to a witness statement on the police report. “I thought it might have been fireworks because I could see the flash and I do not know if gun shots do that. I grabbed my granddaughter and laid on the floor.”
When police asked her if anyone tried to break into her house, she said no. “If somebody tried to get in our house, it’s my … probably be my grandson ’cause sometimes we can’t hear him.”
When police tell her that someone was shot dead in her backyard and it’s now a crime scene, she asked whether the victim was black.
“I hope it ain’t my grandson,” she said. “Please don’t tell me it’s my grandson. Please don’t. No.”
She looked out through the window and saw Clark.
“He was just comin’ home and y’all was comin’ through the back. … He don’t have no gun. He don’t carry no gun. Oh, my god. He got two children,” she said.
The report redacts the name of Clark’s grandmother, but CNN identified her as Sequita Thompson last year.
Frustrated residents protesting a year later
Frustrated residents decried the state attorney general’s decision not to bring charges against the officers who shot Clark.
The attorney general’s move Monday continued a week of disappointment for Clark’s supporters after Sacramento County also declined to file charges. Clark was shot seven times, including three times in the back, according to an autopsy released by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. An independent autopsy found that he was shot eight times, six of those wounds in his back, according to a forensic pathologist retained by his family.
Nearly a year ago, his death triggered days of protests with demonstrators demanding police accountability, part of the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
Police chief met Clark’s mother
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn presented the victim’s mother, SeQuette Clark, with the reports detailing the findings in her son’s death, CNN affiliate KCRA reported. The two met at a parking lot in the city Tuesday, and the police chief told the victim’s mother that he wanted to make sure she got a hard copy of the report.
“The top one is the district attorney’s report and the attorney general’s report, and then the big one is the whole (Sacramento Police Department) report,” Hahn said.
Clark, who was dressed in black, took the stack of paperwork. “So appreciate it,” she said.
Federal authorities announced Tuesday that they plan to conduct an investigation to determine whether Clark’s civil rights were violated.