The family of a Sacramento woman who was gunned down while sitting in her car outside a city library two years ago has filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
The lawsuit, filed in state court earlier this week, comes after the relatives of librarian Amber Clark sent numerous requests to law enforcement and the county district attorney’s office seeking records related to the gun used in the murder.
In December 2018, police arrested Ronald Seay in connection with Clark’s murder. Investigators allege Seay shot Clark more 11 times at close range, striking her in the face and head.
Police acknowledged Seay had a history of mental health issues, was known to harass library patrons and had several law enforcement encounters in California and Missouri over the years.
Despite this, Seay was able to legally purchase the gun allegedly connected to Clark’s murder in Missouri, authorities said.
Since the murder, Clark’s family has tried on numerous occasions to get records related to the purchase of the gun and other documents in the case.
“The information we’re seeking can help explain how Amber’s shooter was able to access a gun despite a well-documented history of mental illness involving threats of violence, contact with law enforcement, and aggressive behavior,” Amber Clark’s spouse Kelly Clark said in a statement. “Making this information available won’t bring Amber back, but by potentially exposing gaps in the system, it may help prevent someone else from going through what our family has.”
Both the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and the Sacramento Police Department have refused to turn over documents in the case, citing exemptions in California’s Public Records Act that allow withholding of investigatory records during ongoing criminal cases. In one instance, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said federal law prevented the disclosure of certain firearms-related records that were being sought for disclosure.
But attorneys representing the Clark family say the records they’re seeking aren’t covered by the exemptions and should be released to the family, in part because an amendment to California’s constitution allows victims to obtain certain information about crimes.
Sacramento legal expert Mark Reichel told CBS13 News the lawsuit filed in state court could put the state’s victim’s bill of rights against federal exemptions.
“I don’t know what interest the federal government would have to override a Californian constitutional amendment, giving the victims the right to know this type of information,” Mark said, adding that the case was unusual because the county prosecutor’s office typically tries to appear “very victim-friendly.”
As of Wednesday, the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office had not formally responded to the lawsuit.
Seay is currently awaiting trial in the case.