Betty Shelby and Terence Crutcher (220588)
Credit: Tulsa County Jail/Crutcher family

More than 80 protesters were arrested in Sacramento Monday night after they marched through an affluent section of the city demanding justice for Stephon Clark}.

Earlier we reported that within 24 hours, about 1500 miles apart, three cops will face no criminal prosecution or civil rights violations for killing two unarmed Black men. Like so many of these tragedies and miscarriages of justice, there is disappointment for the families of the victims, but hardly any surprise.

Last Friday, a former police officer, Betty Shelby, who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, 40, in September 2016 in Tulsa, will face no federal civil rights charges. The Justice Department said it found insufficient evidence to prove that Shelby’s use of force was “objectively unreasonable,” in accordance with a definition set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

After a traffic stop, the police account notes that Shelby believed Crutcher was reaching into his car to retrieve a weapon when she opened fire. However, a video of the incident showed Crutcher holding his hands above his head when he was shot. Even so, R. Trent Shores, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said the “evidence in this case did not support pursuing criminal prosecution. Moving forward, I hope that citizens and law enforcement will continue to work together to better our community.”

The lawyer for the Crutcher family, Damario Solomon-Simmons, said the decision was another instance of the shortcomings of federal civil rights law. “Part of the problem is the bias in our system against African-Americans, but the problem is also how the law is structured,” he said in an interview. “It is almost an impossible burden to prove a federal civil rights violation, so it sets up the scenario where you get these disappointing but not surprising results.”

A wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Tulsa was filed in the summer of 2017 requesting monetary damages and injunctive relief that would require reform in the Tulsa police department. That lawsuit remains pending.

In May 2017, Shelby was found not guilty of manslaughter for killing Crutcher but was placed on paid administrative leave and then left the department after her acquittal. After working as a reserve deputy outside of Tulsa, two weeks ago she became fully employed at a courthouse, where no reservations were raised about her past. That she continues to function within law enforcement was alarming for Solomon-Simmons, who said she was not “worthy nor does she have the capacity to be a police officer. I worry for any community where Betty Shelby has the cover of law, the ability to carry a gun, the ability to arrest individuals and the ability to take people’s lives legally.”

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher said her brother’s death was legal murder, and vowed to fight to change laws that deal with the use of deadly force by a police officer. “Change requires changing, and I made a vow the night of the verdict until I tore down this system of corruption, until I reformed the police department not just locally but around this country,” she said.

And that change could very well start in Sacramento where two police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard will face no criminal prosecution. Clark, 22, was killed a year ago this month when two officers, Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, were investigating a complaint of vandalism and after a brief pursuit Clark was shot and killed.

Last Saturday, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert asked rhetorically, “Was a crime committed? There’s no question that a human being died. But when we look at the facts and the law, and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no. And as a result, we will not charge these officers.”

Schubert said the officers had probable cause to stop and detain Clark. She added that police officers are legally justified in using deadly force “if the officer honestly and reasonably believes” he is in danger of death or injury. “We must recognize that they are often forced to make split-second decisions,” she added, “and that they are under tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances.”

The officers, Schubert said, believed Clark was pointing a gun at them, and they fired their weapons 20 times. His body riddled with seven bullets lay atop his cellphone. According to an autopsy, six of the seven bullets came after he had fallen from a fence.

Like the Crutcher family, the Clark family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city. As if to further absolve the police of the killing, the police released a report that Clark was in the midst of a contentious domestic situation with the mother of one of his children.

While the Clark family did not respond to requests for interviews, the Black community continued to be aroused as they had been since the incident occurred. “I’m disgusted and it’s disrespectful,” said Tanya Faison, a leader of the local Black Lives Matter group. “He was completely disrespected. The mother of his child was completely disrespected.”