On March 18, 2018, Sacramento lost local resident and former Los Rios student Stephon Clark when law enforcement, convinced he held a gun, shot and killed him.
A year later, the police officers responsible for his death were not charged, causing an outpour of grief and anger amongst people who are questioning the authorities that allowed this.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert declared on March 2 that the officers “feared for their lives and acted lawfully under the circumstances,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
Following the release of the District Attorney’s report, organized protests and walkouts have erupted in the Sacramento area in response to the ruling, and at one point, 84 people, including a reporter from The Sacramento Bee, were arrested.
Clark’s family and supporters are lashing back, claiming that officials were biased because of Clark’s personal choices and past decisions, like drug use and former charges.
His mother, Sequette Clark, blasted Schubert for the ruling.
“I don’t care if he was a criminal,” Sequette Clark said during an impromptu press conference. “None of that matters. Stop trying to justify it by looking at a person’s character.”
Black Americans are twice as likely to be unarmed when killed in conflict with police, according to research conducted by the Guardian in 2015.
The report also found through analysis of public record that 32 percent of black people were killed while unarmed in comparison to the 15 percent of white people.
Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump said the thing the DA failed to see is Stephon was shot in the back multiple times. If he had advanced upon officers, how was he shot in the back?
Schubert said the evidence was enough to justify the police officers’ use of deadly force, but the evidence from the two autopsies vary. With the autopsy commissioned by the family, the results say something different than the one done by the official coroner.
“We need to acknowledge the hard truth,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a written statement released hours after the ruling on March 2. “Our criminal justice system treats young black and latino men and women differently than their white counterparts.”
However, Newsom is receiving criticism for making statements that don’t reflect the legislatures he is endorsing.
Assembly Bill 392, also known as the Act to Save Lives, is a bill seeking to shift legal standards that govern police shootings, which Newsom’s office said he chose not to advocate for.
While protesting is an unalienable right, innocent people are still losing their lives. When those in prominent positions make decisions to abuse their power, sometimes the only thing we can do is fight back. .
Moving forward, we need to carefully elect officials who will push for laws that ensure the safety of our local communities.
It’s now on us to demand legislators hear our voices when we say we don’t want another Stephon Clark, and call for change to be made.