SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s attorney general said Tuesday that he won’t charge two Sacramento police officers who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year, a killing that set off intense protests.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s announcement follows the Sacramento district attorney’s finding this weekend that the two officers broke no laws when they shot 22-year-old Stephon Clark.
Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet say they mistakenly thought Clark was approaching them with a gun after he ran from them into his grandparents’ backyard as police investigated vandalism.
Becerra said his review found officers believed Clark was armed and their lives were in danger when they opened fire. Investigators found only a cellphone.
“Based on our review of the facts and evidence in relation to the law, I’m here to announce today that our investigation has concluded that no criminal charges against the officers involved in the shooting can be sustained,” Becerra said.
The attorney general emphasized the need for changes and called Clark’s killing a “devastating loss.” He met with Clark’s mother, SeQuette Clark, before announcing his decision. Jamilia Land, a family spokesperson, said SeQuette Clark would speak to reporters later Tuesday.
Clark was shot seven times on March 18, 2018, and his killing prompted protests in California’s capital city and across the U.S.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s decision not to charge the officers has sparked new demonstrations, with more than 80 people arrested Monday in a wealthy Sacramento neighborhood.
Clark’s family and black community leaders urged Becerra to reach a different conclusion.
“I would like for the attorney general to prosecute the officers,” brother Stevante Clark said Sunday. “I want justice and accountability.”
Both Becerra and Schubert concluded that the officers feared for their lives when they shot Clark, who they thought was holding a gun. They were pursuing him after receiving calls about someone breaking car windows.
The attorney general and district attorney said the evidence showed Clark was advancing toward the officers when they shot him.
The decision has increased support from top state officials to change California’s legal standard for when police can use deadly force.
Lawmakers have revived a measure introduced after Clark’s slaying that would make California the first state to allow police to use deadly force only when it’s necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death and if there’s no reasonable alternative, such as warnings or other methods.
Strong opposition from law enforcement agencies stalled it last year.