Minneapolis County attorney decides not to press charges against two officers involved in fatal shooting of unarmed Jamar Clark
Witnesses allege Clark was handcuffed and face down on the sidewalk when he was shot
Fatal shooting sparked Black Lives Matter protests nationwide and activists camped outside Minneapolis Police Department for weeks
The Minneapolis county attorney’s office has decided not to press charges against Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, the two officers involved in the shooting of unarmed Jamar Clark.
Clark, a 24 year old black man from Minneapolis, was fatally shot by police in November 2015 following an altercation with the two officers mere feet from the precinct headquarters. Officers say they were originally called to resolve a domestic dispute between Clark and his girlfriend.
He died in custody a day later from the injuries suffered. Police have repeatedly maintained that he was shot during a struggle, but many eyewitnesses said Clark was already in handcuffs.
Video evidence appears to support these claims, but is ultimately inconclusive.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the November 15 shooting was justified, who also released video footage from the ambulance which appears to show at least part of the incident.
Freeman said Ringgenberg and Schwarze told him to take his hands out of his pocket, at which point Schwarze unsuccessfully attempted to put Clark in handcuffs. Schwarze claims to have heard Ringgenberg say “He’s got my gun.”
Clark was shot exactly 61 seconds after police first approached him for questioning. No weapon was found on him.
His methods of arriving at his decision were suspiciously unorthodox – opting not to call on grand jury and instead giving himself full power on whether his office should prosecute – prompting increased cynicism.
“I felt it was more transparent and more accountable,” Freeman said Wednesday of not using a grand jury.
Members of the local community organized following Clark’s death around the hashtag #JusticeForJamar, and occupied the street outside the precinct building for 18 days.
Tensions ran high throughout the peaceful demonstration, with activists frequently clashing with police officers, who in turn tried several times to demolish their camps. The Justice For Jamar campaign was also attached to the larger narrative of the #NotOneDime protests on Black Friday organized nationwide by Black Lives Matter protesters, marching out of the Mall Of America demanding justice on Clark’s behalf.
Tensions reached its highest point when activists were attacked and shot at a few days before Thanksgiving by white supremacists, wounding several. According to eyewitnesses, police reportedly told protesters “Isn’t this what you wanted?” when they came to the precinct building asking for help, and additionally pepper-sprayed protesters trying to help the wounded.
“The only time murder or manslaughter charges can be brought against a police officer is when the use of deadly force is not justified,” Freeman said on Wednesday. “To repeat, evidence must show that use of deadly force was not necessary to protect the officer and the public from harm.”
Freeman also called Wednesday for advanced training methods in the deescalation of violent situations, saying “police must use peaceful methods first, and be willing to tactically withdraw.”
Reportedly, an activist at the press conference told Freeman “If the city burns, it’s on your hands.”
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis released a statement Tuesday night saying it will hold “a post announcement gathering” at Elliot Park Wednesday at 6PM.