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Background: A Look Back At What's Happened Since The Shooting Of Stephon Clark

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Children light candles at a vigil for Stephon Clark in South Sacramento.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Updated March 5, 3:05 p.m.

Last March, two Sacramento Police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard in the South Sacramento neighborhood of Meadowview.

This week, nearly a year later, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra both announced that they would not file charges against the two officers who shot Clark.

City officials, law enforcement and activists have been preparing for the DA's decision and those that will follow, expecting demonstrations similar to those that gripped the city last year. Here's a summary of last year's events, how the community reacted and what to expect next. Click here for a full timeline of the events since Clark's death.

What happened last March

Stephon Clark was shot March 18, 2018, about 13 minutes after Sacramento police received a 911 call about someone allegedly breaking car windows in the Meadowview neighborhood of Sacramento. Police who answered the call chased Clark through the neighborhood as a helicopter followed the pursuit.

Body camera footage of the incident shows the two officers following Clark into his grandparents’ backyard. As the officers came around the back of the house, one yelled “Gun! Gun! Gun!” Moments later, the officers fired about 20 shots at Clark.

After the shooting, Clark was found to be unarmed — holding only his cellphone.

The Sacramento Police Department released the body camera and helicopter footage of the chase and shooting less than 72 hours after the shooting. The department released additional footage on April 16 that showed officers administering CPR to Clark and calling out to him as he laid on the ground.

The Clark family called for charges to be filed against the officers who shot Clark, and hired Dr. Bennet Omalu to do an independent autopsy of Clark’s body.

Omalu reported that Clark was shot eight times, seven times from the back. He said that his findings disproved the police’s statement that Clark was “assailing the officers — meaning he was facing the officers” when he was killed.

The autopsy report released by Sacramento County about a month after Omalu’s autopsy disputed his findings. The county report disputed the claim that Clark was shot primarily in the back, and reported that he was hit with seven bullets — not eight.

The Clark family filed an initial wrongful death claim with the city in September for $35 million. They filed an additional wrongful death lawsuit in January for more than $20 million.

How people reacted

On March 22, the day after the first round of videos were released, activists with Black Lives Matter and other groups filled the streets near City Hall to protest the shooting.

Protesters marched onto Interstate 5, stopping traffic going both ways during the evening commute. The demonstrators then headed to Golden 1 Center, where they blocked the entrances to the arena ahead of that evening’s Kings game. The Kings team turned away thousands of fans due to the protest.

The protests continued on March 23 throughout the city. Activists briefly blocked traffic on the Tower Bridge, but California Highway Patrol officers blocked them from marching onto the interstate again.

That night, a vigil was held in Meadowview in Clark’s honor. People marched through Meadowview, carrying candles and signs and stopping at intersections to chant and make speeches.

On March 27, three straight days of protests began leading up to Clark’s funeral. Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, and a group of demonstrators interrupted a community forum at City Hall. Stevante Clark interrupted a council member minutes into the meeting and jumped on a table as the heated discussion grew out of hand.

The next day, protests continued outside the office of the district attorney’s office. On March 29, Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized Clark at his funeral and protests continued downtown.

Demonstrations continued with regular gatherings outside the district attorney’s office. On the six month anniversary of the shooting, protesters gathered downtown and laid in prop coffins as they demanded the officers be held accountable for the shooting.

Groups returned with renewed protests once the district attorney and state attorney general announced that they would not be charging the officers who killed Clark.

Black Lives Matter congregated outside the police station on Fruitridge Boulevard before and after Schubert’s announcement on March 2. The next day, a group of students led by community activist Berry Accius staged a sit in at Arden Fair Mall that ended in the mall closing on March 3.

On March 4 demonstrators planned a march through the Fab 40s, an affluent neighborhood in East Sacramento, to protest Schubert’s decision not to charge the officers. As the group made their way back to the Trader Joe’s where the protest started, officers issued orders for the crowd to disperse. When some did not, officers arrested 84 of those gathered there, including journalists, students and faith leaders.

Police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler told press that officers issued many orders to disperse and that a property owner reported that demonstrators had been keying cars in the neighborhood.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg called for an investigation into the arrests by the City Office Of Public Safety Accountability.

What’s changed since then

In the nearly one year since Clark's death, the Sacramento Police Department and the state as a whole have made changes sparked by the shooting.

Less than a month after the shooting, the police department changed its policy around muting body cameras. The officers who shot Clark muted their cameras shortly after the shooting as they talked with fellow officers. Officers now are not allowed to mute their body cameras unless a supervisor tells them to.

The police department also changed their foot pursuit policy in the wake of the shooting, as Police Chief Daniel Hahn told Insight host Beth Ruyak.

The state legislature also moved to increase police records transparency in the state this year following Clark’s shooting. Personnel records for police departments throughout the state are now available through public records requests, though not all departments have been forthcoming with the records, pending legal challenges.

What this could mean going forward

Police and city officials are preparing for the March 5 city council meeting after the district attorney and attorney general’s announcements. Last year, when Clark was killed, demonstrators spoke out and protested at city council events.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced March 5 that the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, along with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, will be investigating whether the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police violated Clark's federal civil rights.

Becerra said that the report released March 5 is the first of two reports that the state Department of Justice will compile about the Sacramento Police Department's training, policy and practices regarding use of force. The second report has not yet been released.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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