By Crescenzo Vellucci
SACRAMENTO – In just the 10 days since 22-year-old Stephon Clark was gunned down in Sacramento, riddled with bullets as police fired 20 rounds from just a few feet away – claiming they thought a white cell phone was a gun – the streets of Sacramento, from the State Capitol to City Hall to an NBA arena, have been full of demonstrators.
A sight not seen for about half a century here in this sleepy capital city.
Hundreds of demonstrators seeking justice have closed down two NBA basketball games at Golden 1, only allowing in a few thousand spectators in an arena that holds about 18,000. Protests have disrupted and ended a City Council meeting, shut down Interstate 5 for more than an hour, and closed numerous city streets on numerous occasions for more than a week in 5-8 hour hit-and-run protests.
And, Wednesday, protestors focused on Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, the chief law enforcement officer in the county whose job it is to investigate, and charge, people with crimes.
Except Wednesday – and in a similar protest Tuesday and another one set for Thursday – she’s being asked to charge two City of Sacramento police officers with murder after they killed Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, where he lived, shortly after 9 p.m. March 18.
Police first said it was a gun Clark was holding when they saw him during an investigation of someone breaking windows in the area. Then it was reported it was a “toolbar.” Finally, SPD admitted Clark was not holding any kind of weapon. Just that light-colored cell phone.
Video framed officers hiding behind a building and firing at Clark from near point-blank range.
The released body-camera and other footage showed officers muting their cameras, and not identifying themselves to Clark before they shot and killed him. They didn’t get anyone to help Clark for at least six minutes, and interviewed his family inside the house for hours before the family realized it was Clark, who lived there, who was dead in the backyard.
Schubert – up for reelection this June against one of her own deputy DAs – is in a pickle.
Known as a prosecutor somewhere almost right of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Schubert once said she would not investigate alleged crimes by law enforcement. The few times she has, she’s not charged officers.
Not surprisingly, law enforcement feeds the coffers of her campaign war chest, which overflowed – more than a half million dollars were reported – in 2014 when she won the DA job. And Schubert depends on law enforcement to be her investigators and cohorts in prosecuting people.
Except for maybe cops – at least that is what Black Lives Matter and other groups have been saying, and why they sent about 200 people to her office Tuesday and another 150 Wednesday to pressure Schubert to file murder charges against the two officers who killed Stephon Clark.
But Schubert wasn’t home. The entire District Attorney office responded to demonstrators chanting outside by locking their doors shortly after noon each of the last few days.
Some defense lawyers even reported that the DA asked judges to delay trials until the protests at her office wrap up Thursday. Lawyers said the DA might fear that the signs calling police officers “liars” and “killers” might influence jurors who otherwise may trust an officer’s testimony.
As the national media as well as local and regional media – there have been reporters from virtually every national news outlet, and routinely 10-20 television cameras follow demonstrators at the protests – swarm around the story, Schubert is feeling the heat.
Tuesday night, at a Sacramento City Council meeting, Schubert was scheduled to speak, but an impromptu protest erupted in the chambers – peaceful but loud – and Schubert literally ran from the scene, protected by bodyguards.
Certainly, Schubert is not used to the attention. Signs at the DA office protest ranged from “DA Schubert: Throw Her Out” to “Jail for SPD Murderers” and “Schubert: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.”
Maybe Schubert will talk soon about her intentions. Until then, she’s as mum as a “lawyered-up” defendant.