San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his predecessor fired back on Thursday after an association of California prosecutors accused the NFL of misrepresenting the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark in a public service announcement.
The video, published last week as part of an NFL social justice initiative called Inspire Change, featured Se’Quette Clark describing the life of her son, the impact of the shooting on her family and details of the incident from March 2018.
While the California District Attorneys Association said the video would not have been an issue had it stuck to the “enormity of her grief alone,” the association argued that the video omitted “critical facts” about the high-profile shooting.
“Mr. Clark committed several crimes including car burglary, vandalism and an attempted residential burglary,” CDAA President Vern Pierson, the district attorney for El Dorado County, wrote in a letter Tuesday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Mr. Clark was running from officers when he entered the backyard of his grandmother and took a shooting stance and advanced on officers who believed he had a gun,” Pierson continued.
But in a joint statement Thursday, Boudin, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar framed the CDAA’s argument as an attack on the voices of victims.
“Prosecutors take an oath to seek justice and give victims a voice, and that makes CDAA’s attempts to silence the family members of those touched by police violence particularly harmful and troubling,” the statement read.
The top prosecutors urged the NFL to move forward with the social justice campaign.
“In order to restore faith in law enforcement, build bridges, and enhance safety in our communities — and for the many officers that patrol them — this is a conversation that we must have,” they wrote.
Gascon, who served as district attorney in San Francisco from 2011 until stepping down last year, is currently running for Los Angeles district attorney against incumbent Jackie Lacey, who sits on the board of the CDAA.
Clark was shot in the backyard of his grandmother’s house after a witness called 911 to report a person smashing car windows.
Deputies believed he was holding a gun but it later turned out to be a cellphone, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, which declined to file charges against the deputies in the case.
It would later turn out that Clark had recently been involved in a domestic violence incident and was under the influence at the time of the shooting, according to the CDAA.
“Laying out the facts surrounding Mr. Clark’s tragic final moments are not made in disrespect for his life,” Pierson wrote. “Rather, they are a testament to the tragedy of his circumstances and those faced by our communities.”
The shooting prompted protests and led to the passage last year of Assembly Bill 392, which raised the standard required for officers in California to use deadly force from reasonable to necessary.
In the video, Se’Quette Clark described the shooting as such:
“That night, his friends dropped him off and from crossing the street his neighbor started chasing him with a bat thinking he was the one who broke the car window,” she said. “He’s scared, but he made it home. He’s thinking he’s safe, but he wasn’t.”
She said the world lost “a living example of someone doing the right thing in their day-to-day life.”