The Sacramento Police Department has released its findings in the internal affairs investigation of officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who shot and killed Stephon Clark in March 2018.
The officers were found to have followed police policy and training and to be acting lawfully when they entered a backyard that they would later find out belonged to Clark’s grandmother and shot Clark to death.
The officers believed that Clark was carrying a gun, but it was later found to be a cell phone. The Sacramento Police Department released its findings after the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced that federal civil rights charges would not be filed against the officers.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn spoke with CapRadio Reporter Bob Moffitt about the way the internal affairs investigation was conducted, how the shooting affected the community and how the department is changing.
On the role of investigators and the police department
We have an obligation of reviewing the facts, and then comparing it to the law. And that is our obligation regardless of what those are. And so that is what happened. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that this is a good outcome, in general, for our community. It was a tragedy. We lost a community member. This family lost a son, grandson, brother. And so in addition to the investigation's ruling that was within the law, we still have an obligation, is how do we work together and as a department to ensure that this doesn't happen as best we can in the future.
This has had a profound impact on our entire community and the department, in addition to the Clark family, and that won't ever change. We can't turn the hands of time backwards. But we can turn a tragedy, we can't make it not tragedy, but we can make something positive come out of a tragedy.
On Stevante Clark’s reaction to the internal affairs decision
Stevante and I've had that conversation a couple times. And it's no surprise to me where he stands on this issue, because he's told me directly to me that he stands that way. And I don't blame him or the Clark family at all for feeling that way. They lost a family member in their grandmother's yard.
On what’s next for Mercadal and Robinet
In terms of the officers, when the investigation is done, it's done. And all of these local, state and federal levels have investigated and said that they were within the law. And we've done our internal reviews regarding the policies at the time, and they were within our policies. And so we have to, at some point, return them to duty. And so that's what's going on.
I'm always concerned about the wellbeing of not only our community, but the members of our department. And they're no exception to that. And so we will continue to monitor that. And, it's no secret that they've received death threats, especially early on. And so we've been concerned about their welfare just as much as we're concerned about the community's welfare.
On next steps for the department moving forward
Other things we released today are a lot of all of what we've done so far and are continuing to do. Policy changes, training changes, things we're doing in the community, the reviews that are going on right now from Stanford, and the Center for Policing Equity. And the Department of Justice is doing phase two of their review of the department. All those we asked organizations to do, and it's all because we want to do everything we possibly can to not have this be an outcome in our community.
These interview highlights have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when Stephon Clark was killed. It was March 2018.
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