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Family of unarmed Black man who was killed by Sacramento police files $20M lawsuit

Mary Scott
Feb 01, 2019
10:34 A.M.

The family of an unarmed black man, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard last year, has filed a $20M federal lawsuit against the officers involved and the city of Sacramento.

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22-year-old Stephon Clark died last year after he was shot multiple times by two officers who thought he was armed when he was only holding a cellphone.

Screenshot of Stephon Clark and his two sons. | Photo: Twitter/CNN

Screenshot of Stephon Clark and his two sons. | Photo: Twitter/CNN

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The wrongful death lawsuit filed by his family on Monday calls out the use of excessive force in the incident and alleges that Clark was racially profiled, reports CNN.

LAWSUIT DETAILS

The two officers, one black and the other white, according to the New York Times, failed to identify themselves or issue a verbal warning to the father-of-two before opening fire, the suit said. It also alleges that the cops did not get Clark medical attention immediately after the shooting.

According to the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California:

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"The involved officers . . . fired 20 shots striking (Clark) approximately eight times."

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An autopsy report released by the Sacramento County Coroner's office says that Clark was hit seven times, including three times in the back, but an independent autopsy obtained by the deceased’s family found that he “was shot eight times, six of those wounds in his back.”

Although the Sacramento Police Department has never publicly named the officers, USA Today reports that the suit reads:

"The conduct of officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet was willful, wanton, malicious, and done with reckless disregard for the rights and safety [of Clark].”

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ATTORNEYS SPEAK OUT

Filed on behalf of Clark's sons, his parents and grandparents, the lawsuit seeks damages of more than $20 million, including funeral and burial expenses.

Brian Panish, an attorney for Clark's children, said in a statement:

"When the facts are fully disclosed, we are confident that a jury will deliver justice that reflects how grossly the police land city officials failed Stephon, his family and the people of Sacramento.”

Another attorney for Clark’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, added that the deceased’s life had value.

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"The Sacramento police executed Stephon Clark in his grandparents' backyard, mistaking his cell phone for a gun, assuming he was a criminal threat simply because he was a black man," Crump said in a statement. "Stephon's life had value. In America, a life -- even a black life -- can't be arbitrarily extinguished without holding those responsible accountable."

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STATEMENT FROM THE D.A'S OFFICE

Sacramento Police department is said to have declined to comment on the case, instead referring all questions to the city attorney's office.

According to an official statement, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office is reviewing whether the officers' conduct constitutes a crime that could be prosecuted under state law.

"Our timeline for completion of our review has thus been delayed as we process the supplemental materials,” the office said. “We will take whatever time is needed to ensure a fair, thorough, and accurate review of this matter."

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THE TRAGEDY

In March 2018, Sacramento police officers were responding to a call about a man breaking windows and hiding in a backyard. The cops began to chase Clark who then jumped a fence into his grandmother’s yard.

They opened fire on him when they thought he was about to shoot them, but it turned out he was only holding a phone.

A TRAGIC HISTORY

Clark’s death came at a time when there was widespread outrage over increasing cases of black men being wrongfully killed by the police.

Last year also saw a white female officer, Amber Guyger, shot Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man, in his apartment.

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Guyger had entered Jean’s home thinking it was hers and promptly shot the unarmed man. She was initially charged for manslaughter, but last month, a grand jury chose to charge the disgraced officer with murder.

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