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Lawsuits & Litigation

Stephon Clark’s Family Sues Sacramento for Shooting Unarmed Black Man in Backyard

— January 29, 2019

Stephon Clark was shot to death holding a cell phone in his grandmother’s backyard. Now, his family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Sacramento, accusing its officers of being under-trained and grossly negligent.

The family of Stephon Clark, a black man shot unarmed in his grandparents’ backyard, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Sacramento.

According to, the complaint accuses law enforcement of using excessive force and violating Clark’s constitutional rights. The suit claims that responding offices Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet showed “reckless disregard for the rights and safety” of Clark, acting with “deliberate indifference” in the shooting’s aftermath.

Clark was purportedly holding a cell phone when the two police officers shot him.

The killing, suggests the lawsuit, wasn’t precluded by any verbal commands or warning. Moreover, neither officer provided life-saving medical care after. Body camera footage, reports Vox, shows law enforcement neglected to administer any variety of critical care until more than five minutes had passed since the shooting.

“The involved officers shot [Clark] even though he was not an immediate threat of death or seriously bodily injury to the officers or anyone else and there were other less lethal options available,” the suit claims.

Image via Wikimedia Commons. No author named. (CCA-BY-3.0)

Police initially claimed that they were directed to Clark’s location via a helicopter, which had been tracking a potentially armed suspect who’d been breaking into cars.

The Clark family says the shooting could have been prevented if Sacramento gave its officers better training.

Because of the city’s purportedly under-trained officers, Clark “suffered extreme mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and eventually suffered a loss of life and of earning capacity.” Attorneys also note that his relatives will forever be deprived of Clark’s “life-long love, companionship” and financial support. reports that the family is seeking more than $20 million in damages. They’re represented by Benjamin Crump, who worked on behalf of Trayvon Martin’s family. Martin, an African-American teenager, was shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer. The highly-publicized case, which culminated in the volunteer’s acquittal, highlighted how black men are often perceived as threatening.

Crump, in a March 2018 statement, juxtaposed police responses to dangerous white offenders with responses to minority men like Clark.

“People who are committing mass shootings in Florida were not shot once, but a young man holding a cell phone was shot 20 times,” Crump said. “A young man who was bombing homes in Austin, Texas, the police followed him for hours and he wasn’t shot once.

“But an unarmed man holding a cell phone is shot 20 times.”

Clark’s death spurred protests across Sacramento. Activists called for an investigation into the shooting.

But, nearly one year on, no charges have been filed by the Sacramento District Attorney’s office; neither have any conclusions of culpability been made.

In response to Clark’s killing, the Sacramento police department revised its foot-chase policy, discouraging officers from pursuing suspects on the ground.

However, activists say that isn’t enough. “Once they see they can lose their job and pension and can go to court and be treated like every other citizen,” said San Francisco Black Lives Matter founder Tanya Faison, “then police officers might stop shooting us.”


Family of Sacramento man killed in police-involved shooting hires lawyer in Trayvon Martin case

Stephon Clark’s family filed a $20 million lawsuit against the police officers who shot him

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