Dogged by Stephon Clark Shooting, Sacramento DA Faces a Tough Run

Republican Anne Schubert has been plagued by police accountability questions.


The race for district attorney in Sacramento, California, where city police fatally shot an unarmed, 22-year-old black man named Stephon Clark last month, is shaping up as a referendum on police accountability and mass incarceration.

Incumbent DA Anne Schubert, a Republican in a city and county dominated by Democrats, has come under harsh scrutiny from local and national groups, media organizations, and her Democratic rival for her tough-on-crime positions and financial ties to police organizations.

The Intercept last Wednesday ran a report detailing more than $400,000 Schubert has received from local and state police groups over the years—an amount that constitutes nearly a third of her overall campaign donations, according to the article.

Schubert was already taking heat, at least in liberal circles, for having declined to file charges against a single officer, despite more than 20 officer-involved shootings and 13 deaths in law enforcement custody in her jurisdiction in 2015 (when Schubert took office) and 2016, according to the Sacramento News & Review. She “has prosecuted more activists for civil disobedience than she has officers involved in misconduct,” the weekly paper wrote.

The more recent donations, say local reform groups and Schubert’s challenger, Assistant DA Noah Phillips, could influence Schubert’s decisions related to the Clark shooting, which is still under police investigation. Now those groups are publicly speculating that Schubert’s reluctance to prosecute in dozens of earlier police-related deaths may have been swayed by the law enforcement cash her various campaigns—one for superior court judge, one for DA, and then her current reelection effort—have collected going back to 2009.

Schubert took money from local police unions as recently as earlier this month, according to the Intercept report. She also accepted donations from police unions in the week after Clark’s death, according to campaign finance records. She has yet to announce her prosecutorial intentions related to more than a dozen other police shootings and in-custody deaths in 2017 and 2018.

Incumbent district attorneys are facing unusual scrutiny this election season as progressive groups push to replace old-school DAs across the country with reform-minded candidates. Few incumbents are under more pressure than Schubert. The police donations just after Clark’s death drew headlines from local and national media outlets, and the Phillips campaign has capitalized on the controversy, unveiling a new TV ad suggesting that Schubert cannot be an impartial arbiter in the Clark case. Groups including the local Black Lives Matter chapter, the Anti-Police Terror Project, and Real Justice PAC—a national group that is backing Phillips and working to educate voters on the issues—are also claiming Schubert is beholden to the police.

It is not uncommon, actually, for district attorneys to accept campaign donations from police groups. But those who do run the risk of bad optics, experts say. Police reform groups, not surprisingly, consider such donations a conflict of interest.

Local groups are stepping up their organizing as the June 5 election nears. Sacramento Area Congregations Together, a coalition of some 50 faith groups, schools, and others organizing around the race, is canvassing neighborhoods every weekend until Election Day. The nonpartisan coalition advocates criminal justice reform—volunteers aim to educate voters about the powers and critical role of the district attorney.

Other groups are taking a partisan approach: Black Lives Matter Sacramento is circulating contact information for Democratic politicians who have endorsed Schubert, and the group is encouraging people to call and pressure the pols to rescind their endorsements. Real Justice PAC has done likewise, and is calling on local Dems to endorse Phillips instead—RJP also has donated at least $13,000 to the Phillips campaign and is helping it recruit volunteers.

Reformers are also targeting Schubert over her positions on state ballot initiatives that affect California’s jail and prison populations. She was an ardent opponent of a 2014 initiative that aimed to alleviate unconstitutionalovercrowding by reclassifying some felonies as misdemeanors and allowing people convicted of those crimes to apply for reduced sentences. She suedGov. Jerry Brown in 2016, hoping to block an initiative that increased early-release opportunities for nonviolent offenders and ended prosecutors’ unilateral discretion in deciding when juvenile defendants should be charged as adults. She also adamantly opposed a failed 2016 measure that would have ended the death penalty in California, instead penning an op-ed in support of a successful measure to speed up the execution process. Schubert also fought against  Prop. 64, the ballot initiative that legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana. 

Now Schubert is supporting a campaign for a measure that would roll back some of the reforms put in place by earlier initiatives: The so-called Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 would elevate certain misdemeanor offenses to felonies and make it harder for some offenders to seek parole or early release.

Schubert, whose campaign declined an interview request for this story, has maintained that she has always “follow[ed] the facts” in her decisions and that the donations from police groups have not influenced her choices. Her positions on past ballot measures, she has said, were in keeping with the best interest of crime victims and the public, and she has added that despite ongoing protests outside her office demanding charges against officers in the Clark case, she cannot make any decisions until the police department has completed its investigation. The demonstrators have been so persistent that Schubert recently erected a metal fence around her building to thwart them.

Phillips, Schubert’s rival, is running on a platform that includes bail reform and greater transparency around the office’s handling of police shootings—he argues that Schubert could have dealt with the case differently, in part by immediately laying out for the public her process for such a case. (She only did so in a press conference a full month after Clark’s death.) 

Phillips showed up at several rallies for Clark in the weeks after the shooting as well as city council meetings and other forums where the incident was being discussed “to hear what concerns are being raised” and to campaign. “People have to understand that their leaders are willing to lead them, find solutions, and move forward,” he explains. “If you are absent, no one will trust you, no one will have faith in the system, and no one will believe you when you give them information.”

If she loses, Schubert wouldn’t be the first district attorney to go down over a police shooting.

The vast majority of the establishment Democrats have already endorsed Schubert—and so far, none has succumbed to the reformers’ pressure tactics. (The Phillips campaign chalks up its endorsement deficit in part to the fact that Phillips didn’t start campaigning until January, more than two months after Schubert announced her bid.) There is no independent polling in the race. In an internal poll commissioned by the Phillips campaign, voters overwhelmingly chose Schubert, but after they were read “brief and balanced” statements describing the candidates and their positions, Phillips pulled to an 11 point lead. The Schubert campaign would not share any internal polling results.

If she loses, Schubert wouldn’t be the first district attorney to go down over a police shooting. Cleveland’s former top prosecutor Tim McGinty, who declined to press charges in the 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Anita Alvarez, who faced calls for her resignation over her botched handling of the Laquan McDonald case in the Chicago area, were both defeated in 2016, as was Angela Corey, the former Florida prosecutor who failed to convict Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Reform DA candidates beat incumbents in several more races in 2016 and last year.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones faces a similar type of electoral challenge. In January, the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee published an op-ed calling for someone to run against Jones, a Republican and a staunch Trump supporter who was unopposed in his previous reelection bid. The paper cited lawsuits over alleged abuse by Jones’ deputies that have cost the county millions, and personal attacks the sheriff made last year against the founder of BLM Sacramento. Jones has also taken heat for his office’s contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to house detainees in a county jail.

Jones, who donated to Schubert’s first campaign for district attorney, will now be facing Milo Fitch, a former deputy chief at the Sheriff’s Department who is running on a platform that includes support for bail reform and increased educational and jobs programmings for county jail inmates. Many of the groups organizing around the DA race say they plan to get involved in the sheriff’s race as well. They are hoping public outrage over the Clark shooting will prove pivotal in getting people to the polls. “Stephon Clark creates a sense of urgency for folks in Sacramento to say enough is enough,” says Gabby Trejo, an organizer with Sacramento ACT. “Folks are ready for change.”


KVIE Studio Sacramento: Restorative Justice

When a crime is committed, the focus is on prosecution and punishment. However, a growing number of professionals focused on criminal justice reform believe a new approach called restorative justice should be used. Reggie Hola and Eural Strickland with Sacramento ACT join host Scott Syphax to talk about the process.

Mental Health Advocates Request Resources For Black Neighborhoods

This past Saturday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg issued a call to action for mental health physicians to donate their services to neighborhoods that are experiencing trauma. His call comes weeks after community members, specifically from the Meadowview neighborhood, asked for trauma care after Stephon Clark was shot there.

Dr. Kristee Haggins is an African-centered psychologist and is in partnership with the Unity of Sacramento and Sacramento Area Congregations Together (SacACT). She has some ideas on what mental health resources would be most effective for the black communities in Sacramento.

Sacramento Med Students Led A Nationwide 'Die-in' For Stephon Clark And All Other Black Victims Of Police Brutality

Students at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento led a "die-in" on Tuesday in honor of Stephon Clark and to stand in solidarity with all black victims of police brutality. 

The national "die-in" was sponsored by the UC Davis chapter of White Coats 4 Black Lives, a medical student-run organization born out of demonstrations that took place in 2014. Students at medical schools in cities across the country including Harvard University, Touro University California and Upstate Medical University, also participated in the die-in on Tuesday. 

The protest was meant to call attention to racism, the disproportionate number of black people killed by the police and to urge healthcare providers to take action. 

"We want to highlight and educate the community on just how intricately intertwined racial inequality is to all dimensions of physical and mental health," Elise Boykin, a student at UC Davis School of Medicine said according to a press release. "When we lose people of color in senseless tragedies it affects the health of the entire community. That burden of healing rests on the shoulders of physicians, nurses, social workers and mental health providers. That impact creates a public health crisis, we cannot lay idly and continue to watch this happen. The time for equality and justice is always right now." 

On Tuesday, the UC Davis medical students joined groups Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Black Lives Matter Sacramento, Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Law Enforcement Accountability Directive and Live Free. They positioned themselves on the ground in front of the university, with many students holding cellphones to represent that Clark was unarmed and only had a cellphone in his hand when he was fatally shot by police on March 18. 

White Coats 4 Black Lives has created an online petition directed to elected officials and healthcare providers. 

"We must continue to stand against institutional racism on which our nation was founded, and which persists to this day; from our streets to our emergency rooms and clinics, racism has very real consequences and is costing our community members and patients their lives," the petition read in part. 

UC Davis med students hold 'die-in' for Stephon Clark, call for equity in healthcare


Updated April 17, 2018 07:11 PM

Lying on the cement in front of the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, roughly 100 medical students participated in a "die-in" protest Tuesday, urging healthcare providers to do more to help people experiencing trauma after police incidents.

Tuesday's event was hosted by the school's chapter of White Coats 4 Black Lives, a national group founded in 2015 in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown and the in-custody death of Eric Garner.

UC Davis medical students focused on the recent officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark, 22, who was killed March 18 in south Sacramento. The two Sacramento Police Department officers who fired their weapons said they believed Clark was holding a gun when they shot him, though no weapon was found by police — only a cellphone.

"We're basically just standing with our community," said Asadullah Awan, a medical student at the school and organizer for the event. "We're demanding police accountability. We're demanding our health care institutions do more trauma-informed care within our communities."

White Coats 4 Black Lives works to bring attention to the notion that police brutality isn't just harmful to individuals, it's harmful to communities — particularly black communities — and should be seen as a public health crisis, according to its website. The group also acknowledges that the field of medicine is not immune to racism, and strives to end inequities in how healthcare is provided.

On Tuesday, many students held cellphones in their hands, while others grasped signs with messages like "Black Lives Matter." Most wore white lab coats. The event was part of a national protest held at medical schools around the country, Awan said.

Local community leaders joined Tuesday's protest, calling for crisis response teams to help families cope with traumatic events like police shootings. Speakers included Basim Elkarra, who currently serves as the president of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission, as well as Les Simmons, a local pastor and member of Sacramento Area Congregations Together.

Salena Manni, Clark's girlfriend and mother of their two children, also attended the event, accompanied by family members.

"We're calling for equity and health in our communities," Simmons told the crowd.

In past years, people affected by violent police incidents — from 911 callers to those who have lost a loved one — have spoken about the mental health impacts.

In the weeks following the Clark shooting, his brother, Stevante, was taken to an in-patient mental health facility, where he received help as he struggled with the loss of his sibling.

Naomi Montaie, the woman who filmed a Sacramento Police Department officer punching a black man in Del Paso Heights last year, recently told The Bee she was still traumatized by what she saw.

These five activists are keeping the peace in Sacramento in the wake of Stephon Clark


Updated April 14, 2018 07:56 AM

Tanya Faison, the leader of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, strolled casually in flip-flops through the streets of downtown last week, a water bottle in one hand and the other occasionally raised in a fist above her head.

Around her, a crowd of more than 100 protesters chanted, wielded signs and blocked traffic. She let the impulsive energy rule until she stopped to wave at inmates in the main jail and people started passing her.

"Get behind Tanya," her helpers on the front line yelled. "Get behind Tanya."

In the wake of the police shooting of Stephon Clark on March 18, national media attention has focused on emotional multitudes filling Sacramento streets, often seeming on the edge of violence. But Faison and four other community activists — Jamier Sale,Berry Accius, Les Simmons and Ryan McClinton — have been leading these events with a level of organization and influence that belies the apparent chaos and volatility.

Even as marchers have confronted police, this small and loosely affiliated group has been directing, watching and intervening to keep the peace while still creating enough tension to disrupt "business as usual" and allow protesters to vent, they said.

"When it's our event, I try to keep charge of it," Faison said. "My thing is, let's do what we want to do but let's do it in a way that we're going to be safe, and let's think before we do things."

Besides planning rallies and marches, Faison and the others walk the crowd, pulling aside people in heated moments, watching for agitators and keeping messages on point. They have stood between police and protesters screaming inches from their riot shields, kept a close eye on unfamiliar faces joining what is usually a tight-knit community of activists and stood back when they believed the wave of outrage wouldn't crest into mayhem, they said.

'It's a very exciting moment,' Sacramento Black Lives Matter founder says at protest

The founder of Sacramento's Black Lives Matter chapter, Tanya Faison, discusses the support the black community has been receiving after the police shooting of Stephon Clark. Sam Stanton

"If we are opening the space, we are expecting people to bring that pain, and we are accepting that people are going to express that in different ways, but we want to balance that with being constructive and making sure we don't do things that distract from our message. It's a delicate balance," said Sale.

Sacramento Police Department spokeswoman Linda Matthew said the department didn't have any direct contact with organizers like Faison but has taken a "hands-off approach" to recent demonstrations.

"We pretty much just let them run the event on their own, and we just monitor their safety, the public safety that's around them, and then make sure property is not being damaged," Matthew said.

Police have been restrained when faced with protesters, and in some cases have moved away rather than continue confrontations.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokesman Shaun Hampton declined to comment on whether the department thinks Faison and others are helpful at protests. But Sheriff Scott Jones has been vocal in his dislike for Faison, publishing a letter in August asserting "there are far more responsible, effective voices for the African American community here in Sacramento than you." Sacramento police in 2016 challenged her account of a shooting at a nightclub.

Sale also has a tenuous relationship with law enforcement. He has been involved in helping his sister, activist Maile Hampton, fight a 2015 felony "lynching" charge that stemmed from an incident where she attempted to intervene while a Sacramento police officer was arresting a protester. California law since 1933 defined "lynching" as attempting to remove a person from lawful police custody. The case prompted state legislators to remove the "lynching" term from the law.

Most recently, Jones said the local events included paid protesters — a claim all five dispute.

"I push back against that because (people) are sacrificing their time away from their families and putting their own safety on the line," said McClinton. "Paid protesters, that's not Sacramento."

While Black Lives Matter has focused on downtown protests, Sale and his Act Now to Stop War and Racism Coalition (Answer) have been responsible for many of the events in the Meadowview area, including a protest on March 31 where a participant was hit by a Sheriff's Department vehicle.

Sale, 26, is the youngest of the group but has been politically active in Sacramento since 2013. He has advocated for a diverse range of causes including police reform, pro-Palestinian issues and increasing the minimum wage. His events are easily identified by a sound system carried on a wheelchair that he pushes along his routes.

"The biggest thing we try to do is minimize contact with police," said Sale. "We aren’t going to march into police. If the police are lined up in front of the sheriff’s station and we are lined up on the street, we are not going to send people over there."

Accius lives in south Sacramento, where Clark was shot, and is a chef and caterer who founded nonprofit Voices of Youth to help kids in the area. 
"When I see it going to the point where one of these two sides, it could be the police or the protesters, are losing it, I make sure I step in," said Accius.

Simmons, the son of a preacher, is pastor at the South Sacramento Christian Center and has long been active in economic and social work in the area to improve conditions, especially for black children. 
"They call me out to be that voice of clergy, that moral support, that this is righteous work," said Simmons.

McClinton, 32, is a Sacramento native who works with advocacy organization Sacramento Area Congregations Together and became politically active about three years ago after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Trayvon Martin in Florida. 

"For me, it’s a swirl of emotions because I feel the same pain and the same energy (as the protesters)," said McClinton. "When I see younger children out there, that’s where the concern kicks in. Even then it's less fear and more protection."

Despite their efforts, all five said that what they have is influence — not control.

"Things can unravel," said McClinton. "That still very well might happen. You can't control energy. You can't control pain. The best you can do is channel it."

Their limitations were apparent on March 22 when protesters shut down Interstate 5 before heading to Golden 1 Center and blocking Kings fans from entering the game.

"I don’t think anyone would say that was planned. I don’t think anyone would take credit for that plan if it was," said Sale. "It’s the momentum of the people."

That demonstration had moments of violence, including a broken car window and protesters surrounding bicycle officers.

"I did not have control of that crowd, and I did not want to," said Faison.

"In the end you saw the results. Now we've got legislators making legislation, and they weren't lobbied," she said, referring to Assembly Bill 931, introduced in the wake of the Clark shooting, which would curtail circumstances under which law enforcement can legally kill a suspect.

Order again dissolved Thursday night when two women were detained by Sacramento police after a tense confrontation outside the office of Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert during a demonstration. Police said the arrests came after a crowd surrounded a car in the parking lot, and the women failed to obey an order to disperse. Faison said the arrests came after the incident with the car. The confrontation led to a prolonged protest outside the nearby main jail.

As the headlines on Clark now begin to fade, Simmons said they are increasingly focused on utilizing the energy around Clark to push for larger agendas — social issues they say are the deeper roots of problems between police and minority communities.

"As a result of Stephon Clark, people have very skillfully understood not only the shooting that took place … but they’ve understood everything leading up to that that causes our communities to be in the state they are in," said Simmons.

While they all are quick to say they collaborate, not coordinate, the five see their goals as interwoven. Accius, Simmons and McClinton are working on equity issues for communities like Meadowview, including more economic development, more city money for services and facilities and better educational and work opportunities.

Faison is focusing on accountability in Clark's shooting, upcoming elections for the sheriff and district attorney, and statewide legislation on policing reforms, among other items. Sale has the most radical agenda, pushing for a move toward socialism.

"Stephon Clark is just the smoke, and everything else is the fire," said Accius. "If we got justice for Stephon Clark, we would still have systems in place that need change. I was prepared, just as my other colleagues were, so when the moment happened, it was like, 'OK, here we go.'"

After protests, Kings hope to be ‘champion for change’ by investing in black youth

Pastor Les Simmons' South Sacramento Christian Church hosted Friday night's forum. He said the partnership between the Kings and community is "still being forged," but Friday was a step in the right direction.

Simmons said the forum was more than a "moment" but a commitment to seeing "equitable change."

"(The Kings) wanted to help sponsor tonight and bring the community together for some healing for dialogue to really lift up the youth voice," Simmons said. "But then there is a multiyear commitment that is developing to invest equity in our communities and continue to lift up the youth voice, as well as make that investment in accountability, particularly policing in our communities. What does that look like? What reform needs to happen that we all can collectively lead this movement and lift up together?"

Ryan McClinton, a community organizer with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, said the partnership with the Kings shows youth that the team "values their lives" beyond just their status as paying customers.

McClinton working with Kings helps facilitate building equity in the black community, with the hope of setting an example for how other sports franchises can invest in their local communities.

"It shouldn’t only happen in Sacramento," McClinton said. "It has to start in Sacramento because we have a chance to lead the nation in this massive change, this champion for change, if you will. But how does it carry over into other states across the country as well?"

Local Activists Lead ‘Organic’ Protests Demanding Change

SACRAMENTO – The Stephon Clark protest on March 22 was scheduled to be a demonstration at Sacramento City Hall with brief marches in and out of Cesar Chavez Park, which is right across the street.

After three hours of marching, speeches and waving signage of their displeasure of the 22-year-old man being shot at 20 times in the back yard of his grandparents’ house in South Sacramento, the protesters — hundreds of them — were about to call it a day.

Before ceasing the operation, it clicked in some of the organizers’ minds that they had to visit one more location in downtown Sacramento. It was a brilliant move, too.

“The energy was up and we were about to come back to City Hall and end everything,” said Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth and one of the main organizers alongside Black Lives Matter Sacramento. “But then folks were like, ‘You know what, let’s go to Golden 1 (Center). Let’s make an uncomfortable situation for those folks who believe that this situation has nothing to do with them.”

Accius refers to the moment as being an “organic” strategy. So much so, that the demonstration did wake up Sacramento and the rest of the country. Golden 1 Center was completely shut down. Security would not let anyone enter or exit the building.

For a short time, actually right up until tip-off of the game, the Kings and the Atlanta Hawks were not sure they would play the game. But they did, before 2,400 fans that did get inside of G1C before the protesters pushed their way onto the Downtown Commons plaza known as David J. Stern Way.

As Kings fans waited outside of the front entrance, protesters locked arms to form a human chain around G1C. Every entrance to the facility was under siege because of one quick idea that made a big difference.

“I feel like it was beautiful. I feel like we did the right thing,” said Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder Tanya Faison. “Every step that we took, we did the right thing and everything was led by the people. Anything that we go into I get the energy and we go with that.”

The energy was so great that before getting to the arena, Black Lives Matter Sacramento and a horde of unified social groups took their march to the freeway, specifically Interstate 5. At peak hours, the
freeway traffic was halted. Ms. Faison has led many protest marches in the last few years — this one was monumental.

But she said the circumstances needed something special.

“It’s been happening over and over again,” Ms. Faison told The OBSERVER of the police-involved shootings of Black men in Sacramento. “It has to change. There is going to be some changes. We are at this point now to where we are tired of anything that you bring to us that is not what we need. We’re not accepting it. Period and point blank,” she added.

People such as Accius, Faison, Jamier Sale, Keon Johnson, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, and many more have been protesting and bringing awareness to these shootings for years. They meet privately and publicly in concerted effort to force police departments to change their policies.

A few battles have been won while a lot more have been lost. Ms. Faison told the Sacramento City Council on March 20, two days after
Clark was killed in a hail of gunfire, that she was “tired” because she had faced them before, again and again. But she and Accius are in the game for the long haul.

“Throughout this time I have been in social activism, I’ve always said about these real core issues, especially with Colin Kaepernick and far back when Donald Sterling said those things about the L.A. Clippers, the way you make people feel you is when you shut down that entertainment,” Accius said. “So what we showed is that this is what it looks like if the players decided not to play. It was always the strategy that I had in my mind.”

Ms. Faison and Accius want it know that they were not behind the second shutdown of Golden 1 Center when the Kings played the Dallas Mavericks on March 27. That incident was put on at the last minute by protesters who left Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

They also said that they would not organize any more demonstrations at G1C. But there are no guarantees that it would be the end of the protests there.
OBSERVER Staff Writer