Minneapolis Prosecutor Declines to Bring Charges Against Police Officers in Jamar Clark Shooting

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman spoke at a news conference Wednesday about whether to charge police in the shooting death of Jamar Clark.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman spoke at a news conference Wednesday about whether to charge police in the shooting death of Jamar Clark.

No charges will be filed against the two Minneapolis officers involved in the shooting death last fall of Jamar Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.

For more than 30 minutes in a downtown Minneapolis news conference and with Clark’s family and supporters present, Freeman laid out in meticulous detail the evidence that led to his decision.

Freeman said the investigation found that:

• Clark was not handcuffed, as some witnesses contended, when he struggled with two officers.

• Clark had his hand on officer Mark Ringgenberg’s handgun during the scuffle on the ground and ignored repeated orders to remove his hand from the weapon.

• During the altercation, Clark said on more than one occasion, “I am ready to die.”

Freeman brought with him to the highly anticipated announcement evidence from the investigation into Clark’s death on a North Side street as well as video that law enforcement collected from the scene that night.

According to Freeman, citing the evidence presented to him:

Officers told Clark to put his hands in his pockets and he wouldn’t. Officer Mark Ringgenberg put his gun back in the holster and grabbed Clark’s right wrist. Officer Dustin Schwarze grabbed Clark’s other arm and dropped the handcuffs while trying to cuff him. Ringgenberg then tried a takedown move and they both fell to the ground and Ringgenberg’s back was to Clark’s stomach. Ringgenberg felt his gun go from his hip to the small of his back. Ringgenberg reached back and felt Clark’s hand on his gun. He repeatedly told Schwarze: “He’s got my gun, he’s got my gun.’

Schwarze put his gun to edge of Clark’s mouth and said “Let go or I’m going to shoot you.”

Schwarze said Clark looked at him and said “I’m ready to die.”

Schwarze pulled the trigger once, but the slide caught. He pulled the trigger again and the gun went off, 61 seconds after the intitial encounter began.

Plans for two gatherings in response to Freeman’s decision have been announced. A rally organized by Justice4Jamar, is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at Plymouth and James Avenues N., near where Clark was shot. The groups Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and Justice4Jamar announced on Facebook a gathering at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Elliot Park, just south of downtown Minneapolis.

Clark, 24, a black man, was shot in the head during the scuffle with the two white Minneapolis police officers on Nov. 15. The shooting led to international attention, widespread local protests, and an 18-day encampment outside the police department’s Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis, near the site of the shooting.

Activists have not only been protesting Clark’s shooting but also the withholding of video that law enforcement has collected from the scene that night.

The police union has contended almost from the day of the shooting that Clark had his hand on one of the officers’ guns when he was shot. Activists have said that’s not true and that Clark was handcuffed at the time.

Police had been called on a report that Clark assaulted his girlfriend and blocked paramedics from trying to treat her on the street in the 1600 block of Plymouth Avenue N. Clark died the next day.

The officers, Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 29, were placed on administrative leave but returned to police desk jobs in January. Both officers have more than seven years of policing experience, including the past 17 months with Minneapolis. Neither has had any disciplinary actions since they joined the Minneapolis force, according to the police union.

Schwarze, while a Richfield police officer, is accused in a still-pending lawsuit to have deployed a Taser on the passenger of a vehicle pulled over by officers in December 2011. He also is accused of threatening to beat the tased victim and a second passenger if they got out of the vehicle.

While Ringgenberg was a San Diego police officer, he was sued in federal court in 2012 for alleged rough treatment of a suspect resisting arrest. The suit was dismissed.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the Clark case and turned over its findings to Freeman in February. Earlier this month, Freeman reversed decades of precedent when he announced that he would not use a grand jury in police-involved shootings, including to determine whether charges should be levied against the officers in the Clark case.

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SOURCE: Paul Walsh
The Minneapolis Star Tribune