Sacramento faith, community leaders respond to DA's Stephon Clark report

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Community faith leaders opened their news conference on Saturday afternoon with a tone of peace and unity by singing linking arms and singing "We Shall Overcome."

After that, however, speakers expressed frustration, sadness, and outrage over District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's announcement that criminal charges will not be filed against the two officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark in March 2018.

The police officers who fired the deadly shots said they believed Clark had a gun. It turned out to be a cell phone.

"We don't believe the DA's findings represents what justice is for this community, for this city, for this state, and for this nation," said Pastor Lee Simmons.

The news conference was co-organized by Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT).

"Police officers who police the black community should be trained in de-escalation and mental health tactics, and if they don't have this type of training, then maybe those police officers shouldn't be policing our communities," said Allegra Taylor with Sacramento ACT.

Also represented was the Muslim faith through civil rights attorney Saad Sweilem, with the Sacramento Valley chapter of CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations).

"It's taken only two days after Black History Month for us to be reminded that the journey of our black brothers and sisters to obtain justice and equality before the law is still as much a struggle today as it has ever been before," Sweilem said. "For as long as we have laws that enforce racist policing, inform biased trainings and excuse the senseless murders of unarmed black men like Stephon Clark, there is no justice and no equality."

Voice of the Youth founder and community leader Berry Accius said, "I say to the world and I say to Sacramento, as our former mayor once said to me so often, Sacramento is not Ferguson, but yes, we are just like Ferguson. We are just like any other city or state that does not hold killer cops accountable for unjust crimes. Excessive force. For unjust murder of an unarmed black man."

The president of the Greater Sacramento chapter of the NAACP, Betty Williams, said her organization is "asking for expansion of the de-escalation of tactics when it comes to the officers. Also, prohibiting officers for detaining suspects in positions that would interfere with their ability to breathe. And also barring the use of force against individuals who are not suspects of a crime and who are only challenging the officers verbally. A verbal response is not a death sentence. Hitting a glass window is not a death sentence. Jumping across a fence should not be a death sentence. So why in California are we leading in officer-involved death sentences? And no more. No more."