The city of Sacramento has agreed to pay $2.4 million in a civil rights lawsuit settlement to the two sons of Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot 20 times by the police in his grandparents’ backyard in March last year.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Clark’s children, aged 5 and 2, will be entitled to the tax-free funds, which will be placed in a trust account and paid in three instalments between the ages of 22 and 25. The payment also covers the legal fees for the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
In January, Clark’s family filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the two police officers involved in the shooting. The city and the family reached a partial verbal settlement for Clark’s sons in June, with the details of the negotiations and the amount being recently revealed in court documents that were filed on Wednesday.
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The settlement, however, leaves a bittersweet feeling for the family as the two police officers involved in the shooting, Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet were cleared of any wrongdoing and are still at post.
Another lawsuit filed by Clark’s parents and grandparents against the city has, however, not been settled.
“This is a complex case that at its core involves a lawful use of force by Sacramento Police Department officers,” City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said in a statement to The Bee. “This fact has been confirmed by both the Sacramento County District Attorney and the California State Attorney General.
“In this case, the city of Sacramento has determined that this partial resolution of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Clark’s family is in the best interest of our community. The agreement brings a key portion of the case to a conclusion, and avoids a potentially lengthy and expensive litigation process.
“Importantly, this partial resolution focuses on providing a structured settlement for the benefit of Mr. Clark’s young children, ensuring there will be resources available for their care and education. The city believes this action on behalf of Mr. Clark’s children will mark another step in the ongoing healing of our community from a tragic event that caused pain to Mr. Clark’s children and family, to the Meadowview community, and to our entire city.”
Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg also released a statement through his spokeswoman after the settlement.
“I’m proud of the way our community responded to the tragic death of Stephon Clark,” it read. “Residents engaged in peaceful protest to express their anger and grief. Our police department responded by adopting real change in crucial policies such as when to chase suspects on foot and when body worn cameras must be activated.
“And the state of California responded by adopting a new use of force standard that will save lives. I know the Clark family will never stop mourning the loss of Stephon, but I am also proud of the way they have engaged as productive participants in the debate over how to make Sacramento a better city. I wish all the best for Stephon’s children.”
Stephon Clark’s fatal shooting last year, which occurred when Mercadal and Robinet were responding to a report of a suspect breaking car windows in the neighborhood, sparked nationwide protests, revisiting the case of the use of excessive force against blacks by the police.
According to a press release issued by the Sacramento Police Department after the shooting, police were dispatched to 7500 block of 29th Street after a caller reported that a male subject had broken car windows and was now hiding in a backyard around 9 pm.
The caller described the subject as a male, 6’1”, thin, wearing a black hoodie and dark pants. The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department’s helicopter (STAR), which was also on the scene searching for the suspect, directed officers to a backyard and “advised the subject had just picked up a toolbar and broke a window to a residence”.
As the press release explained, “Officers entered the front yard and observed the suspect along the side of the residence. The officers gave the suspect commands to stop and show his hands. The suspect immediately fled from the officers and ran towards the back of the home”.
Videos released by the Sacramento police, however, seemed to call the story into question. The release included two audio and three video recordings, including camera footage from the two officers involved in the shooting, whom the department confirmed each fired 10 shots at Clark.
In the police officer’s body camera footage, officers spot Clark from their hiding place around the wall, and yell “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!” and fire their guns. The officers wait almost five minutes before they approach Clark, place him in handcuffs and perform medical treatment. At the 15 minute mark, an officer says, “Hey, mute”, after which nothing else is heard but officers are seen talking.
In the sound from the video footage from the sheriff’s helicopter, officers are directed to Clark’s location. In the heat map, Clark appears to be walking through the yard when he is shot by police cowering behind a wall.
The clips do not show Clark charging towards officers. The department confirmed Clark was unarmed and holding only a cellphone.