Since 2008, the question has burned through the St. Thomas community: Was it self-defense and a law enforcement action when ATF agent William Clark intervened in a domestic situation and shot and killed his neighbor, Marcus Sukow, or was it a case of a government agent using excessive force?
The V.I. government charged Clark with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence. That sparked an outcry from federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents supportive of Clark, including an Internet attack against the territory that threatened to smear its reputation and damage its tourism industry.
Meanwhile the public and legislative debate over whether federal agents should be granted peace officer status in the territory is still raging.
In October 2010, four days into the Clark trial, senior-sitting V.I. Superior Court Judge Edgar Ross threw out the case on the grounds that Sukow’s body had not been properly identified.
But Sukow’s family has continued to pursue the case, filing a civil action against Clark and the ATF.
That case is being heard this week in District Court by Judge Curtis Gomez and a nine-member jury.
Dale and Jan Sukow, Marcus Sukow’s parents, brought the case in their individual capacities and as personal representatives of the estate, and of Preslee Sukow, Marcus Sukow’s daughter.
Their complaint charges Clark with the “unconstitutional use of deadly force” while acting “under the color of law.” They are seeking compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the Court.
Court documents describe the incident that occurred on Sept. 7, 2008, just outside the Mahogany Run condominium that Sukow shared with his girlfriend, Marguerite “Margie” Duncan. According to witnesses, the two were arguing and Duncan attempted to leave the premises. At least two other neighbors, besides Clark, and a condominium security guard were witness to some of the events.
In the U.S. government’s account and in the Sukow family account, details vary. The government paints Sukow as extremely violent and threatening, while the family maintains that he was not an immediate threat to Duncan or to Clark.