Federal officials in Minneapolis are set to announce Wednesday whether the civil rights of 24-year-old Jamar Clark were violated when he was shot and killed in a police confrontation last November.
An officer shot Clark November 15th, which resulted in his death a day later. The incident sparked weeks of civil rights protests and an 18-day occupation outside a north side police precinct in Minneapolis. The most debated issue was whether or not Clark was handcuffed during the shooting; civilian witnesses said he was, while police have said he was not, reports ABC News.
The confrontation began when police were called in by paramedics who said Clark was interfering with the medical team that was trying to treat an assault victim. Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze responded.
An investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said that Clark refused to take his hands out of his pockets. The police officers attempted to handcuff him, but he resisted. Ringgenberg wrestled Clark to the ground, but ended up on his back atop Clark, and felt Clark’s hand reaching for his weapon.
Schwarze then shot Clark. The encounter lasted less than a minute from the time the officers arrived on the scene.
In March, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman did not file criminal charges against the police officers. He said that forensic evidence in the investigation found no bruising on Clark’s wrists that handcuffs would have likely caused, and Clark’s DNA was found on Ringgenberg’s gun. Freeman also cited conflicting witness accounts as to whether Clark was handcuffed or not.
Mayor Betsy Hodges requested the civil rights investigation, which was conducted by the US Attorney’s Office in Minnesota and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. They are to determine whether or not the police officers violated Clark’s civil rights through the use of force. This is a high legal standard as an accident, bad judgment or simple negligence is not enough to bring federal charges.
The DOJ is also reviewing how Minneapolis responded to the protests in the aftermath of Clark’s death, which included altercations between the police and protesters. An internal police investigation is also expected once the federal investigation results are released.