Attorneys for the family of Stephon Clark have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sacramento Police Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet as well as the City of Sacramento alleging the officers racially profiled and used excessive force in fatally shooting the unarmed, African-American father of two. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court Eastern District of California on behalf of Stephon's two sons, his parents and his grandparents, seeks to hold the officers and the city accountable for violating various civil rights under federal law as well as the California Bane Act that resulted in the execution of decedent, Stephon Clark.
Plaintiffs are represented by Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Dale K. Galipo of The Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo, and Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law, PLLC.
As alleged in the complaint, Officers Mercadal and Robinet shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon in the backyard of his family's home on May 18, 2018 as his grandparents watched in horror. The officers failed to identify themselves as police or issue any verbal warning that deadly force would be used before discharging their firearms approximately 20 times – at least eight (8) bullets struck Stephon, including multiple shots to his back as he made his way to the ground as well as when he was on the ground. Unresponsive and bleeding profusely from his wounds, the officers deprived Stephon of life-saving medical care, causing him extreme mental and physical pain and suffering as his body succumbed to his injuries. At the time of the shooting, Stephon was unarmed, holding only a cell phone, and had not committed a crime or posed a threat to the officers before he was shot and killed.
The actions of Mercadal and Robinet deprived Stephon of his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and applied to state actors by the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs assert that the officers use of deadly force was excessive and unreasonable under the circumstances because Stephon was not armed and "this was not an immediate defense of life situation, the involved officers did not give a verbal warning
that deadly force would be used despite it being feasible to do so, there were no commands given and there were other reasonable options available other than shooting and killing the decedent.
"This family deserves answers and full transparency from the officers, the city and the Sacramento Police Department on the unjustified use of excessive and lethal force that killed Stephon Clark and robbed his children of a future with their father. When the facts are fully disclosed, we are confident that a jury will deliver justice that reflects how grossly the police and city officials failed Stephon, his family and the people of Sacramento," said Brian Panish, attorney for the children of Stephon Clark.
"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. Then they ignored him for six minutes, failing to render any help to save his life. Stephon’s life had value. In America, a life – even a black life -- can’t be arbitrarily extinguished without holding those responsible accountable. To dismiss their behavior is horrendously disrespectful. We are filing a civil action today because nothing will change in America until the wrongful death of a black man is met with requisite justice, because justice equals respect -- not only for Stephon, but for all black people, " said Ben Crump, attorney for the family of Stephon Clark.
As a result of the officers' actions, Stephon's children, parents and grandparents have been deprived of his life-long love, companionship, comfort, support, society, care, and sustenance for the remainder of their lives. Plaintiffs further assert that the conduct of the officers was "willful, wanton, malicious, and done with reckless disregard for the rights and safety of decedent and therefore warrants the imposition of exemplary and punitive damages as to Defendants Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet."
“Since district attorneys throughout the state and the country are reluctant to press criminal charges against police officers involved in unjustified shootings, families of the victims of these unjustified shootings are left only with civil remedies in a Civil Rights action. Hopefully, the City of Sacramento will recognize how unjustified the killing of Stephon Clark was and offer an apology and substantial compensation to his family without delay. This is the first step to have the family start the healing process. One of the goals of this lawsuit is to not only get justice for Stephon's family but to help prevent this type of incident from happening again” said Dale K. Galipo, attorney for the family of Stephon Clark.
The family is seeking treble damages under Civil Code Section 52.1 and compensatory damages – including survival and wrongful death damages in excess of $20,000,000, funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, and attorney fees as well as punitive damages against the individual defendants in an amount to be proven at trial.
A criminal investigation into the fatal shooting was concluded by the Sacramento Police Department in October 2018 and sent to the Sacramento County District Attorney to determine if criminal charges should be filed against Mercadal and/or Robinet. To date, City officials have yet to issue their findings as to whether the officers were found to be within policy for their use of deadly force or if they will be disciplined and/or charged for Stephon Clark's execution.
You can read the full complaint here.