Sacramento County (CA) District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert cleared two Sacramento city police officers in the death of Stephon Clark and released a report Saturday that implies the controversial shooting, which sparked numerous protests, might have been a case of so-called "suicide by cop."
Clark, 22, was shot at the end of a foot pursuit when officers responded to a call about a man breaking into vehicles. He reportedly pointed an iPhone at the officers in a dark residential yard before they opened fire.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the report reveals that Clark was in great emotional distress at the time of his death on Sunday March 18, 2018.
The report says that police first came in contact with Clark on Friday March 16 when a neighbor called 911 over domestic violence involving Clark and his girlfriend Salena Manni.
Manni, who is the mother of Clark's children, reportedly told officers Clark had hit her in the face four to five times, including at least one closed-fist punch.
Clark was on probation for two cases of domestic violence against Manni at the time. He was also on probation for a robbery charge.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Clark tried to call Manni 76 times after the incident. Also recovered from the phone were texts between Clark and Manni. In one of those texts, she reportedly wrote that she had reported him to the police and "you'll be locked in a cage for the rest of ur life and never see your kids grow again."
According to the DA's report after receiving that text Clark searched the Internet on his phone for how to contact the DA's office. He also tried to contact his probation officer but had no luck because it was the weekend.
The night before the fatal officer-involved shooting, Clark reportedly started searching the Internet for "easiest ways to kill yourself." He also sent a text to his girlfriend that included a photo of 10 pills in his hand and the message: "Let's fix our family or I'm taking all of these." The girlfriend reportedly responded: "Do it idgaf." The report says that is a common abbreviation for "I don't give a f__k."
Clark spent the rest of Saturday trying to procure Xanax and other drugs, the DA's office says.
Sunday night about 9 p.m. Sacramento officers responded to a call about a man breaking into cars in a residential area.
When the officers arrived, Clark ran and jumped a fence into a backyard. Officials say he also used a cinder block to smash a glass door at one of the homes. Failing to get in, he ran.
Officers pursued, reportedly commanding Clark to stop.
The foot pursuit ended in another backyard where there was no lighting. One of the officers came around the corner of the home to see Clark with the "hood of his sweatshirt pulled up and his arms extended out in front of him at chest level consistent with a shooting position," the report says.
According to the Bee, the DA's report says the officer saw a “metallic flash” he thought was from a firearm and, believing someone had fired at him, shouted “Gun!” and took cover behind the corner.
When the officer looked back around the corner, he saw Clark had moved 10 feet toward him and was still advancing, the report says.
The second officer looked around the corner, also, and saw “what appeared to be light reflecting off a metallic object in Clark’s hands, and could not tell exactly what it was, but feared it was a firearm based on the way Clark was holding it,” the report says.
The two officers ended up firing a total of 20 shots–seven hit Clark, according to the county’s autopsy. Enhanced versions of one officer's body camera video shows Clark “appears to have raised his lower arms and hands to his chest area, consistent with the officers’ descriptions,” the report says.
The report also says that after Mercadel sees a flash of light and shouts, “Show me your hands. Gun,” enhanced audio of the encounter indicates that investigators believe they hear Clark responding, “F--- you.”
We can't know the mindset of Stephon Clark during this tragic encounter with law enforcement. But the DA's report clearly shows a man in pain who was researching best ways to kill himself. So it certainly implies that he might have taken actions that were designed to manipulate the officers into killing him.