SACRAMENTO (AP) – The California attorney general’s office on Tuesday joined an investigation into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Sacramento to provide independent oversight.
Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he hopes it will bring “faith and transparency” as California’s capital city reels from the March 18 shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark.
“Due to the nature of this investigation, the extremely high emotions, anger and hurt in our city, I felt it was the best interest of our entire community, including the members of our police department, to ask the attorney general to be an independent part of this investigation,” Hahn said.
Clark was killed by two Sacramento police officers who were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows in a south Sacramento neighborhood. Police thought Clark was holding a gun, but he was found with only a cellphone.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office will provide oversight of the investigation and conduct a review of the police department’s policies and training around use of force. Body camera footage released by the department shows police firing 20 rounds at Clark.
The decision of whether to bring criminal charges against the officers involved remains with District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, although Becerra said his office could bring charges as well.
“Understand that this process will take time,” Schubert said. “Thorough and fair independent review demands that we do it right.”
Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson, called Monday for the police to change how they apply force in such situations and to consider non-lethal options.
“We fully expect that the Attorney General’s Office will do a complete and thorough investigation that is fair and impartial – and that extends due process not just to those being investigated, but equally to the family of Stephon Clark,” family attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement.
Hahn said the two officers, whose names the department has not released, are facing death threats. He and a number of community leaders called for calm and peaceful protest as the city moves forward.
On different occasions, protesters have taken over downtown Sacramento and the South Sacramento neighborhood where Clark was killed. At one point, protesters shut down the interstate during rush hour and blocked the entrance to a Sacramento Kings basketball game. The protests have largely remained non-violent although tensions have been high. In one case, several protesters smashed a car window, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg urged the city to set a positive national example.
“The country is watching us,” he said. “Let us show how a city in pain together, with all of our partners, can in fact achieve a better way.”
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.