August 4 2020 – The California District Attorneys Association today asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to pull a video produced by the league as part of its new Inspire Change campaign because it “misrepresents the facts” of the officer involved shooting death of Sacramento resident Stephon Clark in 2018.
Entitled Stephon Clark’s Legacy | #Everyone’s Child (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sJhNoFbcdY) the video features Mr. Clark’s mother Sequette Clark speaking about the tragic death of her son who died after being shot by Sacramento police officers in 2018 following an escalating confrontation that ended in the backyard of his grandmother’s home. Noting that the video “clearly and poignantly shows the devastating impact Mr. Clark’s death had on his mother Pierson advises Goodell that “if the enormity of her grief alone was the content of the video or the purpose behind the NFL campaign you would not be hearing from us.”
“Though well-intentioned the video performs a disservice instead of a public service by omitting the crucial facts which preceded Mr. Clark’s tragic death” said Vern Pierson El Dorado County District Attorney and president of the California District Attorneys Association. Lengthy independent investigations by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office the California Attorney General’s Office (https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/attachments/press-docs/report-attorney-general-regarding-criminal-investigation-death-stephon-clark.pdf) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing in the tragedy.
Pierson said the video fails to put into context the circumstances surrounding Mr. Clark’s death and simply ignores what Attorney General Becerra described as the “critical facts.” In part the Attorney General found “evidence establishes that Mr. Clark committed several unlawful acts by breaking the sliding glass door on a neighboring home as well as breaking into cars and this fact was broadcast by police helicopter” (https://youtu.be/B3V3Z6ucXKk). The various investigations concluded that moments later Mr. Clark was running from the officers when he entered his grandmother’s backyard; that when confronted by officers who were unaware that he was in his grandmother’s yard Mr. Clark “advanced significantly towards the officers he was not retreating” (Attorney General Becerra) with what they believed to be a gun and was subsequently shot. Further Attorney General Becerra observed on the video “a bright light near Mr. Clark’s person it was clear he had something in his hand.”
Pierson said the findings of the investigations by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office revealed that Clark had been involved in a domestic violence incident with the mother of his child less than 48 hours earlier and that Mr. Clark was despondent (https://clark.sacda.org/news/documents/OIS_Clark_Summary_of_Legal_Review.pdf; https://clark.sacda.org/news/documents/OIS_Clark.pdf)
The findings Pierson noted were supported by the helicopter video radio traffic and the officers’ body worn cameras. An autopsy of Mr. Clark revealed that he was under the influence of multiple drugs at the time of his death Pierson said. The letter includes links to the findings of the investigations.
“By omitting these critical facts you missed the opportunity to address issues faced by our communities including drug addiction mental health struggles and domestic violence” Pierson said adding “by failing to account for the full set of circumstances surrounding (Mr. Clark’s) death you are undermining the very foundation of meaningful conversation around unlawful police overreach brutality and wrongdoing.”
The letter cites recent remarks by former President Barack Obama about the power of honesty and evidence. “Speak the truth” Obama said. “Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through. The biggest mistake any of us can make in these situations is to misinform.”
Pierson asked Goodell to “reexamine the factual findings of Mr. Clark’s death and produce a video that accurately depicts the conduct of all concerned in an officer involved shooting. Sadly there are far too many that better illuminate just how far we must go in reaching the lofty ideals we cherish and venerate as a nation.”