By Robert J. Hansen | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Stevante Clark went to the office of a mental health clinic sometime after the death of his brother Stephon at the hands of Sacramento police. His regular therapist was not there, Clark said, and he was taken into a back room. There, he said, a clinician tried to physically restrain him.
When the clinician let him go, he ran out of the office and was chased by Sacramento sheriff’s deputies, but never caught.
“Next thing I know I see sheriff’s looking for me, helicopters,” Clark said. “They never caught me. But the way they put their hands on me didn’t make me feel safe.”
In 2018, Sacramento police officers mistook a cell phone for a gun and shot and killed Stevante’s brother in his grandmother’s backyard in Meadowview, sparking local protests and a national outcry.
The Office of Public Safety Accountability, the oversight agency for the Sacramento Police Department, has been investigating 10 officer-involved shootings since Inspector General Dwight White started in 2021. Five of those investigations are nearly complete, but there is no timeline for presenting findings to the City Council.
Stevante Clark’s personal struggle with mental health was thrust onto the public as he dealt with the trauma of his brother being killed by police in 2018. At a March 27, 2018 City Council meeting, Stevante came up to the podium, jumped on the dais where councilmembers govern and joined members of the public in chanting “Stephon Clark” for several minutes. Stevante sat on the desk and pumped his fist to the chant.
“The mayor shows no emotion, doesn’t care about my brother,” Stevante declared.
The meeting was adjourned.
“The way that the city treated me after the death of my brother added to the mental breakdown,” Clark said, adding he was not yet under treatment for his trauma.
Clark said that “hearing things like ‘he makes Black people look bad” or ‘his brother shouldn’t have been running from police’ and ‘the chief did a good job, why is he mad at him’” all affected his mental health. “There need to be more culturally competent therapists who understand African American and other minority cultures.”
When he learned July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Clark conceived of an event, the Stephon Clark Minority Mental Health Expo, which was held July 14.
He said one reason for conducting the expo was because of the way he was treated after the “assassination of my unarmed brother.” Clark said Rev. Al Sharpton showed him the “blueprint” for such events.
Sacramento pastor Tecoy Porter, who has been with the Clark family since Stephon’s death, said what Stevante is doing is an excellent example of turning pain into power and purpose.
“If you think about it, Stevante and his family still have every right to be angry because there hasn’t been any resolution,” said Rev. Porter, whose Genesis Church is yards from where Stephon Clark was killed..
Rev. Porter said mental health seems to have become more of a priority in Sacramento after seeing Stevante at City Hall after his brother was killed.
“It was an opera,” Rev. Porter said. “He’s not only transformed himself, but helps transform his community and the city.”
Stevante does not consider himself a leader, nor does he believe he has particularly grown since his brother’s death. He said people caught him “at a bad time.”
“I’m not a leader, I haven’t grown, I’m not an activist,” Clark said. “What I am is my brother’s keeper. I had to make sure my voice was heard. If I didn’t then I don’t think people would be talking about my brother.”
Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a BART police officer early New Year’s Day 2009, said Clark in fact has evolved since his brother’s death.
“From having not known how to navigate through the justice system and the trauma that he faced, he has learned how to navigate through the system and navigate in the community to be able to galvanize a system of people to unify against injustice,” Johnson said.
Clark founded the IAMSAC Foundation, which is dedicated to “social, transformative and restorative justice.” Its ultimate goal is the creation of Stephon’s House, a recreational museum and library dedicated to Stephon.
Clark said he isn’t sure what justice and accountability looks like right now. He thought it was the two officers who killed his brother going to prison. Both continue to work; neither has been charged with a crime.
Seeing one of the police officers that killed his brother at the Golden 1 Center during the Kings’ playoff run last season was triggering, Clark said.
“I think that the way I deal with it is by knowing that the main reason I do all the things that I do, is to seek justice and accountability,” he said.