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‘Stephon Clark’s Death was a Tragedy’: Sacramento Settles Final Portion of Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit for $1.7M with Stephon Clark’s Parents

The city of Sacramento and the parents of Stephon Clark’s parents have settled a federal civil rights lawsuit regarding the death of their son in the spring of 2018. Under the agreement, the Clark family will receive over a million dollars on top of the already amount given to the deceased’s two children.

On Friday, Aug. 12, the city’s insurer agreed to pay the parents $1.7 million to stop legal action against the city. This is in addition to the 2019 settlement, where the city offered to pay $2.4 million to Clark’s immediate descendants, a statement from the city revealed.

Originally both his parents and his children jointly filed a lawsuit asking for $20 million against the municipality for the Black man’s death on March 18, 2018 — but the legal guardians of the youngsters accepted money to withdraw.

Clark’s sons’ payments will be placed in trust accounts for the boys, who were ages 5 and 2 when the 2019 settlement was reached, and distributed to them in three tax-free payments starting when they are 22 and 25.

This recent settlement culminates the legal proceedings for the remaining plaintiffs.

City Attorney Susana Alcala-Wood said in a statement, “The decision to resolve the case through a negotiated agreement comes after careful consideration of all options.”

“We believe this is the best path forward for all involved parties including our community.”

On the day of Clark’s death, police received reports that a series of car windows were being smashed in the Meadowview neighborhood of south Sacramento. Officers Terrence Mercadel and Jared Robinet, believing Clark was responsible for the vandalism, chased him. While in pursuit and after he repeatedly ignored the officers’ commands to stop, they shot him after he fled into his grandmother’s backyard.

The cops discharged their weapons 20 times after he turned to face them with a dark object in his hand. They believed he had a handgun, it turned out to be a cellphone.

The police officers kept shooting Clark, even after he had fallen to his hands and knees.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said after the settlement was announced, “Stephon Clark’s death was a tragedy that brought pain and sorrow to his family and to our entire city.”

“Everyone wishes this heartbreaking event had not occurred,” he continued, recounting the personal loss to some of his constituents. “A family lost a son, a grandson, a brother, and a father.”

Clark’s death sparked protests and demonstrations of civil unrest and was championed by the Black Lives Matter movement two years before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Investigations, consisting of helicopter and officers’ bodycam footage, sparked a conversation about how easily officers resort to using excessive or deadly force— particularly in the case of Clark. Still, city officials noted that reviews from the city, county, state, and federal agencies all determined Mercadel and Robinet’s actions were within state law and Police Department policies.

Alcala-Wood said, “The fact that the officers acted within the law does not diminish the tragedy of what occurred. This case has led our city to implement meaningful improvements to policy, and it will continue to do so.”

The city never filed criminal charges against the officers, but instead the Sacramento Police Department has since implemented a new policy to curb the use of force by officers, including an update to the agency’s bodycam and foot-pursuit policy.

In 2019, a year after his death, a landmark state law was passed. This law aims to better regulate how and when officers use deadly force. Clark’s death contributed greatly to the passing of this legislation.

Also, in June 2021, the Sacramento City Council adopted language regarding a new “use of deadly force” policy for law enforcement proposed by the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission.

 The civilian-populated panel tasked with overseeing public safety policies came up with the update that read, “A peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only as a last resort when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible and the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary.”

Stephon’s brother Stevante Clark spoke at a press conference about the agreement said it comes a day after his 27th birthday, Aug. 10.

“The city has settled with the children of Stephon Clark and now the news has reported that the city has settled with the parents, the family of my dear brother Stephon Clark,” he acknowledged, but added, “The fight for justice and accountability for Stephon Clark does not stop.”

Stevante said his family is calling for officials to fire and convict the officers responsible for Clark’s premature death.

“I want to make it clear, I am not anti-law enforcement,” the brother said. “I am anti-police brutality. I am anti-police corruption, anti-police militarism, and anti-police terrorism.”

“Anytime you do something so bad that a law has to be created, you should be held accountable,” the brother said.

“There’s no reason I should be out here talking about my brother’s legacy, defending my brother’s legacy, when the officers who murdered him should be proving their innocence in court,” Stevante said. “We always have to relive the death of Stephon.”

When asked if the money will go to other families who have been impacted by police-involved violence, Stevante said, “We’ve already been doing that without the money.”

“Stephon has done more in three years than most men will do in a lifetime.”

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