It has been almost a year since the deadly police shooting of Stephon Clark. The investigation took seven months. Yet, the District Attorney has still not decide if the officers involved acted illegally. The Sacramento County DA’s office said last week that the investigation into the officers involved has been delayed due to new information.
On March 18, 2018, Stephon Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in the backyard of his family’s home. According to reports, Stephon was not armed and there was no imminent threat. He was shot seven times in the back. Investigators later discovered that Clark was holding a cellphone.
Stephon’s family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers who opened fire. The lawsuit holds the city accountable, citing negligence and a failure to properly train its officers in the use of deadly force. The suit contends that the officers used excessive force and that Stephon was a victim of racial profiling. It also alleges that police delayed in seeking medical care for Stephon. The family seeks in excess of $20 million in damages.
This case follows a disturbing pattern. Police shootings of black men have become a more common occurrence – Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and Stephon Clark. These innocent victims are robbed of life by the men and women who were duty bound to protect them. Then, their families are robbed a second time because despite the evidence, even footage from a cellphone camera (Philando Castile), officers usually aren’t held accountable. There have been 21 cases where police officers have escaped prosecution in the unjustifiable deaths of African American men and women. The denials and even cover-ups seem to happen all too frequently. This is largely because the investigation must prove that an officer knowingly and intentionally killed the victim without justification or provocation. Most state laws also give wide latitude to officers when it comes to the use of force.
Over time each case will dissipate. Protestors will stop marching in the streets and each story will be dropped from the media cycle. Unfortunately, the calm likely will not last, maybe not even through the week – a new case will arise. That is why we must all keep the dialogue going if we are to bring about change. We cannot bring Stephon Clark back, but we can send a strong message that what happened to him is unacceptable, and measures such as racial profile/bias training must be taken to prevent such a tragedy in the future.
Betrayal in Black, the fourth novel in The Zachary Blake Betrayal Series, is a gripping legal thriller that explores an increasingly controversial clash between race and police power. Subscribe to markmbello.com for updates on its release later this year.