Family members of Stephon Clark filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court on Monday, blaming the city of Sacramento and two of its police officers in the March 2018 shooting.
Clark’s mother, grandmother, uncle and children are seeking more than $20 million in damages.
"The Sacramento police executed Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard, mistaking his cell phone for a gun, assuming he was a criminal threat simply because he was a black man,” family attorney Ben Crump wrote in a statement.
Two police officers — named in the lawsuit as Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet, but whose identities have not been confirmed by the Sacramento Police Department — fatally shot Clark on the night of March 18, after law enforcement had responded to a complaint of a man breaking car windows.
The officers pursued Clark into a backyard, which they later learned was his grandmother’s home, and fired at Clark 20 times. They thought he had a gun in his hand, but only discovered a cell phone near his body.
The lawsuit accuses the officers of excessive, unreasonable force and other civil rights violations, but also claims the city did not give its officers proper instruction, such as how to engage in a pursuit of a suspect.
"By failing to adequately train officers, including Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, and failing to institute appropriate policies, regarding the use of excessive force, including deadly force,” the city is guilty of gross negligence, the lawsuit reads.
City Attorney Susana Alcala-Wood would not discuss the family’s suit, issuing only the following statement: “Out of deference to the judicial process and because this is a matter of active litigation, we respectfully decline to comment.”
The local Black Lives Matter chapter has organized demonstrations since Clark’s death and founder Tanya Faison said the family deserves to win the suit.
“We still need justice, though,” Faison wrote in a statement. “We still need charges filed against the officers that killed [Clark], and we then need convictions.”
She added that both Mercadal and Robinet are back at work, which the department has confirmed.
The lawsuit comes as the city awaits findings by District Attorney Anne Marie-Schubert, who will determine whether to file criminal charges against the two officers. Her office’s review could be released in the coming weeks.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified one of the family members filing this suit. It has been corrected.
Read the lawsuit below:
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