It may be more than a year before a Northern California prosecutor decides if two police officers broke the law when they fatally shot a black man who was later found to be unarmed, she said Wednesday.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said her office doesn't yet have the Sacramento police report into last month's death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark. She also does not have the official autopsy or toxicology report, though a renowned pathologist hired by Clark's family found that he was shot seven times from behind.
The officers were investigating reports that a man was breaking car windows and a neighbor's glass door when they pursued Clark into his grandparents' backyard after he refused to stop and show his hands. They say he turned and advanced toward them when they opened fire. They later found only a cellphone.
The shooting has led to weeks of protests and near daily calls for Schubert to make a decision as she runs for re-election.
She asked for patience amid what she said is understandable community anger and predicted reforms may result from what she called the "tragedy" of Clark's death and the national outcry over police shootings of young black men.
The state's attorney general also is investigating.
Decisions typically take six months to more than a year, and some nearly two years, she said at a news conference. And that's after her office receives an autopsy report that can take six- to eight months, and a police report that can often take three- to four months, she said.
"It may be frustrating, and I understand that," she said, adding later: "Protesters are not going to stop us from following that process."
California's use of force standard makes it rare for officers to be charged after a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted. If prosecutors or jurors believe that officers reasonably feared for their safety, they are permitted to use deadly force.
Schubert said she welcomes peaceful protests. But she said frequent demonstrations outside her office have become intimidating to employees, witnesses and crime victims attempting to enter the building.
Tanya Faison, a leader for Black Lives Matter-Sacramento, which has organized the protests, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Schubert also defended accepting $13,000 in campaign contributions from two local law enforcement unions days after Clark was killed. She said the state attorney general's office previously said that accepting contributions during such an investigation is not a conflict of interest.