Protestors Rally, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Flags Torched after Decision to Not Charge Officers Who Killed Unarmed Sacramento Man

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – Several “Blue Lives Matter” flags were torched here in front of City of Sacramento police headquarters late Saturday after the Sacramento County District Attorney said she would not charge Sacramento police officers for killing an unarmed Black man nearly a year ago.

There were no arrests, and police observing the action didn’t confront the crowd of about 100 protestors.

Earlier Saturday, in a carefully orchestrated, strategic media event, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced after an hour-long presentation – some called it a “closing argument” in defense of city police  – that no police officer would be arrested for the slaying of Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man March 18, 2018.

The decision was not unexpected. DA Schubert has never charged a Sacramento police officer for killing civilians, unarmed or not. But it was how Schubert rationalized her decision that brought gasps from onlookers and looks of surprise from even some in the news media mob.

In short, Schubert – sounding at one time like a prosecutor of a victim, and the defense attorney for the officers – said Clark had domestic problems, probably had broken some windows and may have wanted to die.

Schubert then concluded that Clark wanted the City of Sacramento police to kill him. And SPD officers obliged, even though Clark was unarmed, and the police were 15-20 feet away safely tucked behind a building. SPD has claimed they saw a flash and Clark moved toward them – both not verified by released police video.

That’s a defense, she said, that would have made it impossible to win at trial. So, she refused to charge the officers, and allow – as many in the community have called for – a jury make the decision.

“We will not charge, there is no criminal liability,” said Schubert. I know people will be upset and this decision does not diminish the tragedy,” she admitted.

But reaction was swift to Schubert’s decision.

“I am not surprised at her decision, none of us are,” said Tanya Faison, Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder. “But I was surprised at what great lengths she went to attack Stephon. I was shocked that she stooped that low,” added Faison, who led weekly vigils at Schubert’s downtown office for months.

Schubert’s comment that “we treat everyone with dignity. This does not mean we lack compassion” was met with derision.

“The character assassination of a dead man was unnecessary. They searched his emails, chats and other social media in an effort to demonize him. The DA didn’t even talk with the officers who shot him and certainly didn’t search their social media,” said one person holding a sign criticizing police.

Reaction – expected to be so violent that workers in and around the Capitol were warned to stay away from downtown – was relatively calm.

The downtown area quaked during the weeks and months immediately after the shooting – Interstate 5 was closed down when hundreds of protestors occupied it, two Sacramento Kings games were shut down and commuters were blocked by demonstrations. There have been at least 14 arrests.

Other than a few news conferences after Schubert made her announcement Saturday, the only other “action” was a four-hour rally in front of the SPD headquarters near the executive airport.

Several “Blue Lives Matter” flags were torched near the entrance to the building. But police remained huddled inside, not daring to come out and face the roughly 100 demonstrators.

For months, the City of Sacramento girded for this announcement – and rumors flew the past two weeks leading to a Friday prediction of the announcement.

Sources familiar with the DA’s office said late Friday that the announcement was moved to Saturday because there would little traffic downtown, and no Sacramento King’s game would be disrupted. It was raining, too.

In the end, it wasn’t the fact of Schubert’s anti-climactic announcement that she would not prosecute police officers, but her callousness in demeaning Stephon Clark, and in effect his family, that surprised observers and the family.

In a statement, Salena Manni, Clark’s girlfriend and mother of his children, said Schubert was supporting the “shameful legacy of officers killing Black men without consequences and breaking my family’s hearts again.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who has repeatedly called the death of Stephon Clark a tragedy, wouldn’t answer questions about whether he disagreed with the decision not to charge the officers. He has chosen to back state legislation about use of force changes, and promised to throw money into some of the poorest communities in  Sacramento. But he wouldn’t second-guess Schubert.

But others had no problem doing just that.

CAIR-SV Attorney Saad Sweilem: “We are deeply disappointed by today’s decision by the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office. Stephon Clark and his family deserve justice, and that can only come from holding law enforcement accountable when unarmed African-American boys and men are killed by the police. We need expedited reforms when it comes to policy and training of law enforcement in order to save lives and give people dignity.”

“Although the D.A. foreclosed on the possibility for justice through the criminal system, we will pursue justice for Stephon’s family in the civil courts with all vigor,” said Ben Crump, a family lawyer, in reference to a multi-million claim against the city in the works, and a huge lawsuit in federal court.

Finally, the SPD is investigating the officers who gunned down Clark – Terrance Mercadel and Jared Robinet. SPD Saturday said the department will conduct its own probe as to whether the officers’ “use of force..complied with department policy.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. John Hobbs

    Predictable results all around. Schubert never intended to charge the officers, the investigation was nothing but a whitewash. Having known no other response from the police and city government the community was prepared to respond they only way they can, with civil disobedience. Same old s**t, different day.

    1. David Greenwald

      What this means is that AB 392 has a real chance of passing – particularly after Governor Newsom issued a very strong statement yesterday.

      1. John Hobbs

        “What this means is that AB 392 has a real chance of passing”

        But little chance of changing the cop culture. Unless all of the current police are vetted for previous bad acts and statements, the bad ones are removed, prosecuted and denied future access to guns or employment with any police agency and their replacements carefully vetted and monitored by CIVILIAN review teams WITH BROAD DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY, nothing changes.

  2. Eric Gelber

    I watched the press conference and fully understand the outrage. The outcome may have been inevitable, but the supporting facts could have been presented by the cops’ defense attorneys in closing arguments. It was the clear intent to imply that this was a “suicide by cop.”  No inquiry was apparently made and certainly no facts were presented about the involved officers—e.g., about personal events that may have affected their states of mind or about their personnel histories.

    Bottom line is, an unarmed man who had merely broken windows was confronted and killed. Steps—including legislative changes—must be taken to address this pervasive problem, starting with enactment of AB 392.

  3. John Hobbs

    “an unarmed man who had merely broken windows”

    We only have Schubert’s word for that. I don’t trust the provenance of her DNA evidence. The detestable manner in which she chose to defame Stephon in order to whitewash her cops is indicative of her disregard for people she considers “beneath” her.

  4. Edgar Wai

    I am basing my comments from wikipedia on Stephon Clark. And I have no police experience.

    Stephon was not endangering anyone at the time he was being shot because the police chased him to his grandma’s house. In this case, there was also a helicopter. So this was a case where the police could arrest Stephon by just having the area surrounded.

    It is the same logic against some high speed chases and chases in general. If you know where the suspect went and you can follow them, surround them later, especially if the crime was a property crime, there was no urgency to put the lives of anyone in danger. If it was at night and people could mistake what someone is holding or carrying, then do it during the day. If the suspect is running from the police, ask if a neighbor or a family member could approach the suspect in order to communicate.

    I don’t see the logic of why he had to be apprehended “at all cost” at that moment. We know that the police would sacrifice to protect the people, by for that saying to be valid, the sacrifice needs to be on the police. In this case, the police went in too deep pursuing a suspect and they are no longer the only one making a sacrifice.

    Police practice seemed wrong.

    What was the intended charge against the police?

  5. Scott Ragsdale

    I don’t know Schubert, so I can’t say if she poses a bias any more than I can say what Stephon Clark was inclined to “wish” for when he was shot by officers sworn to serve and protect.  It should not rest well with anyone observing (most of us reading this are lucky to be “observers” and not victims) how our policing/legal system is implemented by those who seem to have little in common with those who receive the threat of jail time, jail time, and all to disproportionally as well, death.

    I am not convinced in any way that the review of conduct of the officers prior to their shooting, at the shooting, and after the shooting, of Stephon Clark exists. I am convinced it has been an extremely unbalanced review.  The person who was shot and killed deserves better and we cannot stand by.

    A potent part of the policing culture is not healthy and has so far been immune. the remedy includes re-organizing how cadets are selected, a greater amount of public oversight – that does not have conflicts of interest embedded in police interests – and representative policing by police that are part of the communities they serve.

    Sacramento, Davis, and the State of California can and should make policing a positive contribution to the inclusive and just application of a shared body of law.  That is what we must strive for.  An honest assessment should continue to include what is going well, as much is, and what is not and why it is so persistently not going well. 

    Federal laws, like the one that was leaned on so heavily in this case, that gives the DA the power to withdraw charges because of “use of force” doctrine that allows the bias of “if I think someone looks dangerous” as an excuse to shoot them, leaves much too much room for institutionalized bias to go unaddressed.

    I agree with the commenters before me that the onus is on our State legislature to pass AB329.  Please make your calls to Dodd and Aguiar-Curry to support this legislation.

  6. Jean Miller

    “Glued at the hip to law enforcement, because DA’s win cases IF law enforcement testifies in ways helpful to the DA’s.”  This is what a former deputy DA in the Sac office told me.

    One news report claimed that of 40 police misconduct cases Schubert has “investigated”, she has never found police  wrong.

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