How a 911 call for neighborhood vandalism resulted in a young father losing his life.
The day was Sunday, March 18th, 2018.
It was 9:10 P.M.
South Sacramento resident Dave Reiling called 911, after hearing a loud noise and noticing broken truck windows near his driveway in the 7500 Block of 29th Street in Meadowview. Reiling would later testify he came face-to-face with a suspect in dark clothing, who fled through a backyard.
“This guy’s going down the street breaking windows and cars. He busted both my truck windows out. He’s in people’s backyards right now.”
Eight minutes later, Sacramento Police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet arrived at a nearby house. A Sacramento Sheriff’s helicopter was also dispatched for assistance.
They began canvassing the backyard, searching for a suspect. Both officers had guns drawn and searched through the backyard of the occupied home. Nobody was in the backyard, and the officers began to leave empty-handed. They likely would’ve gotten a statement from Reiling, and that would’ve been the end of the situation.
Moments later, the Sheriff’s helicopter alerted the officers that a suspect had been located. This was Stephon Clark, a 22-year old father, and Meadowview resident. Unknown to Police at the time, he was entering his grandmother’s backyard.
The responding officers ran to Clark’s home, guided via radio from the helicopter. They entered Clark’s front yard with guns-drawn and yelled at him to show his hands, never once identifying themselves as Police.
Clark turned and fled, running back through the driveway and into the backyard. Police followed right behind him. He stood behind a picnic table, slowly walking along the side of the house.
Clark’s grandfather, Tommy Thompson, affectionately known as Tommy T, later testified that Clark was talking and trying to get his attention through his bedroom window.
While pursuing Clark, the officers breached a department policy that suggests de-escalation from a safe spot while pursuing a suspect. By coming around the corner into Clark’s dimly lit backyard so quickly, the officers effectively robbed themselves of any chance to safely de-escalate the pursuit. If Mercadal and Robinet had stopped short behind the wall and issued commands to Clark from there, he would most likely be alive today.
Officer Mercadal called out “Gun” multiple times. Less than a second later, both officers opened fire. They shot at Clark a total of 20 times, striking him 8 times. The independent autopsy conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu concluded that the fatal shot entered Clark’s body while he was lying prone on the ground.
The officers initially stated Clark was charging towards them with a gun. Days later, a Sacramento Sheriff official claimed Clark was armed with a crowbar.
Both claims were false. The only object found in Clark’s hands was his black and pink cell phone, filled with photos of his children and fiance, as well as quips showcasing his dry-wit sense of humor on Twitter.
The officers remain employed, and on March 2nd, 2019, were cleared of all criminal wrongdoing by Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert. Clark’s tragic and wrongful death inspired protests throughout Sacramento, including the blocking of intersections and massive demonstrations resulting in Golden One Center briefly closing.
Clark has been described by his family as a charismatic extrovert, with a larger-than-life personality. His older brother Stevante compared him to famous wrestling icon Ric Flair.
Clark leaves behind two young children and a large family. His family recently started IAMSAC, a nonprofit foundation created in his honor.