'Pursuit of justice': Sacramento mall shut down as protests continue over Stephon Clark decision

Jorge L. Ortiz

A small group of protesters staged a sit-in that led to the closure of Sacramento’s largest mall Sunday, marking the second day of demonstrations in California’s capital after prosecutors said no charges would be filed in the Stephon Clark killing.

District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced the decision Saturday, saying an investigation revealed the two police officers who gunned down Clark, 22, in his grandparents’ backyard last March had reason to believe their lives were at risk.

Clark did not have a weapon, but the officers -- Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet -- said he was advancing toward them and they mistook the cellphone in his hand for a gun.

“We must recognize that they are often forced to make split-second decisions, and we must recognize that they are under tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances,” Schubert said.

Tanya Faison, of Black Lives Matter, addresses a demonstration outside the Sacramento Police Department to protest the decision to not prosecute the two officers involved in the 2018 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, March 2, 2019.

Several dozen people protested Saturday in Sacramento over the latest police killing of an unarmed black man, and the smaller group gathered at the Arden Fair Mall and held up signs of protest Sunday morning.

Mall officials told the Sacramento Bee they closed down the shopping center out of concern the demonstration could turn into a confrontation. There was “high potential for crowds that the interior of the mall couldn’t accommodate safely,’’ spokesman Nathan Spradlin said.

The leader of the group, Berry Accius, told news reporters forcing the mall to be closed “was the only way for folks to realize what’s going on,” adding that mall visitors will be “inconvenienced, like we are every day having black skin.”

More: Cops who fatally shot Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, last year will not face criminal charges, Sacramento AG says

Clark’s family called an afternoon news conference with members of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to press their “pursuit of justice.’’

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family, said Sunday on Sharpton’s MSNBC show that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is expected to release the results of his own investigation later this month. Crump said his clients are hoping for a different conclusion than the one reached by local prosecutors.

Relatives have voiced displeasure with Schubert revealing during her presentation Saturday that Clark had been involved in an incident of domestic violence with his fiancee two days before police confronted him after getting calls about a man breaking car windows on March 18, 2018.

His death, on the heels of police killings of African-Americans such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Philando Castile, sparked protests and calls for more police accountability in California and New York.

Salena Manni, the fiancee of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police in 2018, kisses the couple's youngest son, Cairo, 2, during a news conference to discuss the decision to not file charges against the two officers involved on March 2, 2019.

Schubert presented Clark as a troubled man, saying he conducted online searches about how to commit suicide and was concerned about going to jail for violating terms of his probation. She also said a toxicology screen showed Clark had traces of Codeine, marijuana and Xanax in his body at the time of the incident.

“Whatever he was doing, whatever his character is or his actions prior to those police gunning him down is no one’s business. That not justification,’’ Clark’s mother, SeQuette Clark, told news reporters Saturday.

More: Stephon Clark shot 8 times, mostly in back, independent autopsy finds

In a tearful news conference, Salena Manni, Clark’s fiancee and the mother of his two sons, said the DA’s decision extended a “shameful legacy" of officers killing black men without consequences.

“What I feel the DA announced today was not about what happened on March 16, was not about what happened on March 17. It was what happened on March 18, when the officers murdered my fiancee," Manni said.  "That’s what this is about.’’

Contributing: Doug Stanglin and Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Pursuit of justice': Sacramento mall shut down as protests continue over Stephon Clark decision