By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The family of a local father slain by police in 2018 is once again demanding accountability after an officer who killed him was spotted working in Oak Park.
Stephon Clark’s mother, Sequette Clark, and older brother Stevante Clark led a group of supporters in protest Saturday, marching in the streets near the busy intersection of Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard. They take issue with the fact that Officer Jared Robinet, one of the two officers who fatally shot their loved one March 18, 2018, is back in the area, policing.
“That’s a spit in the face of the Clark family,” Sequette Clark said.
Officer Robinet was taking an individual into custody outside the CitiTrends store at 5201 Fruitridge Road on July 23. The shopping center also houses a Dollar Tree, Foods Co. and an Octapharma Plasma location where locals make money through blood donations. In the middle of making the arrest, Robinet was recognized as one of the officers who fatally shot Clark four years ago. The passerby, whom the Clarks called an “ally,” began filming on his cell phone.
Ironically, it was a cell phone that Stephon Clark was holding that officers say they thought was a gun.
The man who was being arrested objected to being filmed, saying he felt uncomfortable. The person filming, who goes by “Cali Tito” on the Youtube page where he posted the video, stated that the officer is responsible for killing someone and that makes him uncomfortable. The comment, and perhaps being confronted in general, seemed to get to the officer, as demonstrated by a look that appeared on his face. The man filming accused Robinet of smirking and calls him a punk.
As the officer places the detainee in the back seat of the squad car, he is asked, “You’re Jared Robinet, aren’t you?” to which he responds that he is. Another question is thrown at him. “You’re the one who murdered Stephon Clark, aren’t you?” Robinet responds, “It wasn’t called a murder.” The video advances to show Officer Robinet doing something at the trunk of the police vehicle. The man filming is already within arm’s length of the officer when Robinet warns him that he’s getting too close. The man responds with “What are you going to do, shoot me?”
Sequette Clark says she was nauseous after watching the video, describing Robinet’s demeanor as “an attitude of nonchalance.” She wishes he had apologized or refused to respond altogether.
“You can believe that you are doing your job,” she said. “That’s fine, if that’s what you truly believe. I’m not questioning that. I don’t care about that. I care about how you’re responding to my son being dead.”
Both the Sacramento County district attorney and the state attorney general declined to file charges against Officer Robinet and another officer, Terrence Mercadal, in Clark’s death. In September 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges.
Police department spokesperson Sgt. Zachary Eaton said officers Robinet and Mercadal are active employees with the Sacramento Police Department. Daniel Hahn, who was police chief at the time of the incident, offered some insight, sharing that while policies may have been updated, there’s typically no hard rule on being assigned back to a patrol area after something such as an officer-involved fatal shooting. Officers sometimes are reassigned, he said, but often simply return to where they’d been working. The information regarding policies and procedures Sgt. Eaton provided to The OBSERVER gave no clear mention of a notification or a “heads up” to victims or families in officer-involved shootings that the officer would still be working in that area and could potentially cross paths with them.
The Clark family says a civil case against the city and Sac PD begins Sept. 12. “It’s not going away,” Sequette Clark said. “And I just wish everybody could pretend for just 10 seconds that that was your son.”
The local mother and grandmother said she’ll be back with a bullhorn next week and the week after. “If I’m out here by myself, I’ll be out here every Saturday at 2 p.m. at the same time (Officer Robinet) was spotted, to let him know that Stephon existed,” she said.
She says having Robinet patrolling the streets of Oak Park or South Sacramento makes her fearful for her two remaining sons and others who look like them.
“They can get pulled over and the officer is going to come up to the car with his weapon drawn because that’s how they do in our communities,” Sequette Clark said. “There’s not going to be any thought or any consideration for the driver or if his kids are in the car with him. We’ve seen it time and time again, how we are patrolled and policed.”
Stevante Clark, who led the march alongside his mother, called Robinet a terrorist.
“He will do it again because there has been no accountability,” Stevante Clark said. “Sac PD knows it. The mayor knows it. The county knows it. The governor knows it. The state of California knows. The United States of America knows Stephon Clark should be alive today.”
Before the rally, Stevante Clark spoke with an officer who drove up in a dark SUV.
“We are not anti-law enforcement. We’re anti-killer cops. We’re anti-police terrorism,” he said. “We’re anti-police brutality or anti-police corruption or anti-police militarization on not some levels, but all levels and we need the community support. So we’re gonna hit the streets.”
Protest participants carried signs and chanted “Stephon Clark, say his name” and “no justice, no peace,” as drivers honked and yelled support. One woman stopped her car in the middle of traffic, evoking agreement from a passerby who said, “This is what we’re supposed to do, shut it down.”
Addie Kitchen drove from Fairfield in support. Kitchen’s grandson, Steven Taylor, was shot and killed by a San Leandro police officer at a Walmart in April 2020. Employees had accused Taylor, 34, of stealing a tent. Kitchen said her grandson was unhoused and addicted to drugs.
“Homelessness and mental health should not be a death sentence,” she said. “And it is, so we’re working with the Alameda County Fire Department to get a mental health program in the city of San Leandro.”
Kitchen said her family owes the Clarks a debt of gratitude for fighting for reform in the wake of their personal tragedy, as it helped others. “If not for Assembly Bill 392, the officer would not have been charged and so I came out to show my love and support to the Clark family,”
Kitchen was referencing a state law also known as the Stephon Clark law, spearheaded by then-Assemblymember Dr. Shirley N. Weber.
Kitchen and the Clarks recently were in Akron, Ohio, demanding justice after Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black driver, was shot 60 times by police officers in June during an attempted stop for an alleged traffic and equipment violation.
“We just try to stand in solidarity with people and let them know, ‘You’re not in this by yourself.’ We’re all over the country,” Kitchen said.