Feds won't pursue charges against Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark

Feds won't pursue charges against Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark

Federal prosecutors have declined to pursue charges against two Sacramento, Calif., police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, last year, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet had shot Clark, 22, seven times as he walked toward them in March 2018. The officers said they fired on him because he was holding a gun, police said, though investigators only recovered a cellphone.

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"After a careful and thorough review into the facts surrounding the shooting, federal investigators and prosecutors determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of the federal statute," the U.S. Attorney's Office in California said in a statement.

In March, the California attorney general's office declined to press state criminal charges against Mercadal and Robinet after a yearlong investigation. At the time, California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks California acknowledges Facebook investigation, asks court to order compliance Toyota, General Motors side with Trump administration in emissions lawsuit MORE (D) said the officers had reason to believe that their lives were in danger.

It was a similar result Thursday, when the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI indicated that they had failed to find sufficient evidence to charge the pair. Mercadal and Robinet will both return to active duty, according to USA Today.

Stevante Clark, Stephon Clark's brother, reacted to the decision on Facebook, posting "These people have failed when it comes to [accountability]."

In a statement of his own, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said: "Although no policy violations occurred in this incident or in the events leading up to it, we are committed to implementing strategies that may prevent similar tragedies in the future."

A new law passed by Golden State lawmakers last month should change how future cases involving police use of deadly force are prosecuted in the state.

The old law was based on the theory of "reasonable fear." In other words, if the jury believed that the officers in question had reason to fear for their safety, then they could use lethal force.

By contrast, under the new law, police will only be authorized to use deadly force when "necessary," when officers or nearby civilians are at risk of imminent death or serious injury. The law goes into effect in January.