(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — More than 80 people were arrested during a protest in California’s capital on Monday night in the wake of the district attorney’s decision to not charge the two police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark last year, authorities said.
The people were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly after authorities tried to disperse the rally on the streets east of downtown Sacramento, according to Capt. Norm Leong of the Sacramento Police Department. A number of cars were found keyed during the demonstration.
Dale Kasler, a reporter for The Sacramento Bee, was among those arrested. He was covering the demonstration and had been filming a livestream at the time of his arrest. He was released late Monday after being detained for about an hour, the newspaper said.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he was “very disappointed” about Kasler’s arrest.
“I’m very disappointed the protest ended the way it did,” Steinberg said in a statement late Monday night. “I have many questions about what went on that precipitated the order to disperse and the subsequent arrests. I will withhold further comment until I get answers to these crucial questions tonight or tomorrow morning. No matter the reason an order to disperse was given, no member of the press should be detained for doing their job.”
Protesters took to the streets after Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced over the weekend that two officers — Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet — would not face charges related to the fatal shooting of Clark, a 22-year-old black man who was holding a cellphone when he was gunned down the night of March 18, 2018. One of the officers is black and the other is white.
“We have one question to answer. And that question is, was there a crime committed?” Schubert said at a press conference Saturday. “There’s no question that a human being died, but when we follow the law and our ethical responsibility, we will not be not charging these officers with criminal liability for the death of Stephon Clark.”
“No charges does not diminish the anger, the frustration we heard since the time of his death,” the district attorney added.
The officers confronted Clark in Sacramento that night after receiving a 911 call about someone breaking into cars in the neighborhood. Surveillance video shows Clark smashing the windows of three vehicles, according to Schubert.
The 911 caller informed police that the suspect had fled, jumping over a fence into a backyard. When the officers arrived on scene, they searched a nearby yard and found Clark staring into a sliding glass door where an elderly man was watching television, according to Schubert.
Clark then smashed the glass with what Schubert described as a heavy object and fled into another yard, later determined to be his grandparents’ property.
Bodycam footage released by police show the officers running after Clark and taking cover at the edge of a building. The officers yell several times for Clark to stop and show his hands before firing a barrage of gunshots.
“Mr. Clark’s arms were extended in a shooting stance, they believed he was pointing a gun,” Schubert said. “One officer saw a flash — thought it was a flash from a muzzle. The other officer believed it was a flash of light from metallic, off the gun.”
A toxicology report revealed that Clark had alcohol, prescription drugs and traces of marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of his death, Schubert said.
Clark was a father of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old.
Brian Panish, an attorney representing Clark’s children, released a statement Saturday blasting the district attorney’s “cherry-picked facts.”
“The City has once again failed Stephon Clark, his family and the people of Sacramento,” Panish said in the statement. “It’s unfortunate that justice for Stephon and his family must now be decided and delivered by a civil court.”
“Multiple shots to Stephon’s back tell a very different story than the cherry-picked facts presented today,” he added.
Clark’s killing garnered nationwide attention and sparked mass protests in California’s capital and beyond. The Sacramento Kings professional basketball team honored Clark before their game against the Boston Celtics on March 25, 2018.
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy at Clark’s funeral, telling mourners, “This is a national fight. Stephon has woke up the nation. We all stand with Stephon Clark.”
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