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Chaos erupts at Sacramento City Council meeting over Stephon Clark protest arrests

Chaos over Stephon Clark case at meeting

Chaos erupted Wednesday at a Sacramento City Council meeting following decisions by local and state prosecutors in the 2018 police shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark. The decisions prompted renewed protests over the shooting, in which police investigating vandalism fatally shot Clark in his grandparent's backyard. The officers said they thought Clark was pointing a gun; he was actually holding a cellphone.

Dozens of speakers at Wednesday's city council meeting were angered over the arrests of more than 80 people during protests on Monday, reports CBS Sacramento. Police ordered the crowd to disperse and handcuffed at least three clergy members and Sacramento Bee reporter Dale Kasler, who was covering the demonstration, the newspaper reported. Speakers Wednesday said police were aggressive, pushing and sometimes striking protesters and ramming them with bikes, reports the Associated Press. Rev. Kevin Kitrell Ross said officers trapped people who were trying to leave the protest.

APTOPIX Sacramento Police Shooting
Protesters disrupt the Sacramento City Council during a meeting Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Rich Pedroncelli / AP

"We should not live in fear over the people protecting us," one speaker said.

Police Chief Daniel Hahn said the department is reviewing body camera footage, and mayor Darrell Steinberg has reportedly called for an independent investigation.

Tensions boiled over about an hour into the public comment period of the meeting, when a speaker the Sacramento Bee  identified as Alexander Clark (who is not related to Stephon Clark) told Steinberg to "shut the f*** up." Clark refused to return to the audience after exceeding his allotted time to speak, the paper reports.

"They don't give a f*** about Stephon Clark," the man yelled, before jumping onto a podium. Sacramento police pulled him down. Crowds watching from the outside began banging on windows and chanting "Say his name," reports CBS Sacramento.

Faith leaders eventually helped calm the crowd.

"What just occurred is you expressed the level of trauma that you've been experienced here by the militarized display of our law enforcement," Ross said.

The meeting resumed after about 15 minutes, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Following the conclusion of the local and state investigations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday it would investigate possible civil rights violations in Clark's death.

Clark's family and local activists had urged state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to reach a different conclusion than the county district attorney, the Associated Press reported. Becerra said he met with Clark's mother before the public announcement and extended his sympathies to the Clark family. He called Clark's death a "devastating loss."

Speaking Tuesday, Becerra said his office undertook the 11-month investigation at the behest of Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn. He said he was tasked with determining whether officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet believed they were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, which would make the killing justifiable under California law. Becerra said Clark had refused officer's commands to show his hands, had something in his hand and had advanced to within 16 feet of officers when they opened fire.

According to the state justice department's report, Mercadal said he saw Clark with his arms outstretched in front of his body, in what he called a "shooting" position. Mercadal said he thought Clark had already opened fire.

"I was scared," Mercadal said. "I thought that he had shot at me."

No charges for police officers involved in shooting of Stephon Clark

Both officers said they saw a reflection on a metal object in Clark's hand and thought it was a gun, according to their accounts outlined in the report.

"I honestly was really surprised that I hadn't heard gunshots yet," Robinet said.

Clark's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking more than $20 million from the city and the officers, alleging that the officers used excessive force and that Clark was a victim of racial profiling.  

"The City has once again failed Stephon Clark, his family and the people of Sacramento," a family lawyer said in a statement Saturday.

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