Family, Sacramento community honor legacy of Stephon Clark, killed by police five years ago
The legacy of Stephon Clark lived on through determined family members and the Sacramento community on Saturday, the fifth-anniversary of his killing by police.
In March 2018, two police officers pursued and fired on Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ Meadowview neighborhood home. Police believed he was holding a gun. Clark, a Black man, 22-years-old, was unarmed and had a cellphone in his hand.
The body camera video of the deadly shooting released by police three days later roiled the city and sparked worldwide condemnation. But the aftermath prompted legislative changes involving police use-of-force, including Assembly Bill 392, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019.
That progress was the focus of Saturday’s rally and march, which took place at the Capitol.
“What keeps me going is the fact that in order for Stephon to live forever, we have to prevent Stephons from ever happening again,” said Clark’s brother, Stevante. “I love my brother and I miss my brother. But one of the main things is how do we keep his legacy alive in a positive light. I never want my brother to die.”
In the days after the shooting, Stevante Clark emerged as a visible and emotional leader of the protests. The image of Stevante Clark seated atop the mayor’s dais during one city council meeting, finding the spot after sprinting from chamber’s seats, remains one of the moments most remembered.
He also became a vocal advocate for police reform, helping propel AB 392 into law. The law is one of the nation’s toughest laws governing police use of deadly force.
Stevante Clark says the work is not done, particularly with justice for his brother.
In 2019, the results of federal civil rights, state Attorney General’s Office, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and internal Sacramento Police Department investigations into Clark’s fatal shooting ended with the probes finding the officers were not criminally responsible for the Sacramento man’s death, clearing Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet of wrongdoing. Both remain employees of the city, according to police.
“Five years later, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Stevante Clark said. “Five years later, we still want some justice. Five years later, police should know the difference between a gun and cellphone. ... Five years later, 10 years later, 20 years later and 100 years later, I will keep fighting for my brother until we get justice and accountability not on some levels but all levels.”
Saturday’s rally marked the continuation of a “Legacy Week” to commemorate Clark and honor the families that have been also damaged by law enforcement brutality. The events began Wednesday with a dinner and fundraiser. It was followed by a caravan “ride-along” through the Meadowview neighborhood on Thursday and a Friday block party.
The campaign will culminate on Sunday, with a brunch that offers a gathering space for mothers who have experienced the loss of a child.
Sequette Clark, the mother of Stephon Clark, is spearheading the brunch. She said the brunch aligns with the mission of I Am SAC Foundation, founded by the Clark family in Stephon’s name.
“They can feel a sense of normalcy because everyone around them knows what they’re going through,” Sequette Clark said.
She also called the events a series of “mixed emotions.”
“The legacy week is profound for what it does for the community and other impacted families but, for me, it brings the fact that my son is dead right back to the forefront,” Sequette Clark said.
Protests that followed Clark’s death
In 2018, protesters by the hundreds, and community and religious leaders took to Sacramento’s streets, parks and the steps of the state capitol; its neighborhoods, shopping centers and the well of the Sacramento City Council’s chambers.
Marchers snarled freeways and traffic downtown; forced the-then newly opened Golden 1 Center into lockdown and massed at the G Street offices of then-Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to demand answers, justice, accountability and, ultimately, sweeping police reform after what was then the latest deadly encounter between a Black man and police.
The widespread unrest and angry protest would continue through that year and into the next.
One demonstration through East Sacramento’s tony, predominantly white Fab 40s neighborhood in March 2019 would stand as one of the most charged. The mostly peaceful protest was nearing its end when Sacramento police and Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies clad in riot gear abruptly ended the demonstrations and herded dozens of protesters onto the 51st Street overpass.
In all, 84 people, including ministers and legal observers, Sacramento State student journalists and reporters for the Sacramento Business Journal and Sacramento Bee were detained.
The police action was widely condemned, the city’s mayor demanded answers, its police chief vowed to investigate. Charges against the protesters were never filed.