William Clark, special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was effectively cleared of any wrongdoing in the 2008 fatal shooting of Marcus Sukow when the jury in a civil case ruled Thursday that Clark did not use excessive force.
An earlier, criminal case brought against Clark was dismissed in 2010 because of a procedural problem, leaving the high-profile incident unresolved in the public forum until this week’s civil trial. It was brought by Sukow’s parents, Dale and Jan Sukow, on behalf of themselves, his daughter, Presley Sukow, and his estranged wife Courtney Wallis.
Clark declined comment after the verdict, according to a Virgin Islands Daily News story. The Daily News did, however, quote his fellow ATF agent Carlos Baixauli as saying, “Will would like to thank the people of the Virgin Islands for their service. He would like to thank them for justice being served and for their thoughts and prayers that went out to him from all the citizens of the Virgin Islands.”
It also quoted attorney Vincent Colianni Jr., who represented Sukow’s estate, as saying “We don’t like the verdict, but we accept it.”
The all-woman jury delivered its verdict Thursday morning, after 2-1/2 days of testimony and arguments in District Court.
The U.S. Justice Department defended Clark and the ATF, which was also named in the suit.
The incident began as a domestic dispute between Clark’s downstairs neighbors in the Mahogany Run condominium complex, Sukow and his girlfriend, Marguerite Duncan, and spilled outside their apartment when Duncan attempted to leave the scene in her car. Defense witnesses, including Clark, described an out-of-control, highly aggressive Sukow who was threatening Duncan and other people in the vicinity and brandishing a large heavy flashlight like a weapon.
After unsuccessful attempts to defuse the situation, Clark said he fired on Sukow when Sukow raised the flashlight as if to strike him in the head.
The original case against Clark, brought by the V.I. government, strained relationships between federal ATF and local law enforcement agencies, with the ATF temporarily pulling its agents out of the territory and demanding that they be given local peace officer status. Legislation for that purpose has been stalled in the Legislature.