MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota prosecutor released hundreds of pages of documents and videos hours after detailing Wednesday the reasons why two white officers would not face criminal charges in the Nov. 15 fatal shooting of a black man. Jamar Clark, 24, died a day later. Some key details of the investigation:
According to an account laid out by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, police were called to north Minneapolis early Nov. 15 by paramedics who were trying to treat Clark’s girlfriend for an assault in which Clark was the suspect and said Clark was interfering.
When police arrived, Clark refused orders to remove his hands from his pockets. Officers tried to handcuff Clark but couldn’t.
Officer Mark Ringgenberg took Clark to the ground and ended up on his back atop Clark. Ringgenberg felt his gun shift from his hip to the small of his back. He reached back and felt Clark’s hand on his weapon.
Ringgenberg said, “He’s got my gun,” according to Freeman. Schwarze said he dropped his handcuffs, put his gun to the edge of Clark’s mouth and warned him to let go or he would shoot. Clark looked at Schwarze and said: “I’m ready to die.”
According to Freeman, Schwarze pulled the trigger but the gun didn’t fire. Schwarze heard Ringgenberg say “shoot him” in a panicked voice, and Schwarze pulled the trigger again and the gun fired. Clark was shot in the head.
Freeman said the entire incident, in which he said deadly force was necessary, took 61 seconds from the time police first approached Clark.
KEY EVIDENCE REVEALED
The issue of whether Clark was handcuffed was a key factor in the investigation. Several people who said they saw the shooting said Clark was restrained and not struggling.
But Freeman said forensic evidence didn’t support witness statements that Clark was handcuffed — he had no bruising or injuries on his wrists consistent with being handcuffed and his DNA was not found on the inside of the handcuffs that were on the ground nearby.
Freeman also said Clark’s DNA was found on the grip of Ringgenberg’s gun, supporting the officers’ account.
“Clark simply could not have been handcuffed when he attempted to seize the gun while they were on the ground,” Freeman said.
Freeman said 20 civilian witnesses gave different versions of whether Clark was handcuffed. Two said he wasn’t, six weren’t sure and 12 said he was, but they disagreed on whether both his hands were cuffed and whether his hands were in front of him or behind his back.
Freeman said he didn’t believe the witnesses were lying, but it’s not uncommon for people to have differing stories from different vantage points. He said in such cases, prosecutors need to look to forensic evidence.
Activists said Freeman gave more weight to the police officers’ version of events than he did to the witnesses. One unidentified woman called Freeman’s narrative “propaganda” during the news conference. Others said Freeman’s announcement showed the system is rigged against African-Americans.
Activists rallied Wednesday at the site of Clark’s shooting in north Minneapolis and at a park on the southeast side of downtown. The two groups converged at the Hennepin County Government Center, where hundreds participated in a peaceful demonstration including singing, chanting and speeches.
Ringgenberg and Schwarze still face an internal police investigation, as well as a federal investigation into whether they intentionally violated Clark’s civil rights through excessive force.
The Department of Justice is also reviewing how the city responded to protests after Clark’s death.
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