Two Minneapolis police officers will not face charges in the death of a black man who was reportedly shot in the head last year while wearing handcuffs, federal officials announced Wednesday. The U.S. Justice Department said there wasn't enough evidence to bring civil rights charges in the Jamar Clark shooting, which has sparked months of protests from residents concerned about racial injustice amid the national Black Lives Matter social justice movement.
The investigation determined Clark's death was “undeniably tragic,” but “evidence is insufficient to meet substantial evidentiary requirements.” U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger said during a press conference Wednesday that federal investigators could not prove the officers “acted with the specific intent” to break the law as required to move forward with the charges. He said the requirement represents one of the nation's "highest criminal standards."
Minneapolis officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were the subject of the investigation that determined Clark, 24, was not handcuffed when he was shot on Nov. 15, MPR News reported. Protesters, however, have said his death was unwarranted and held an 18-day occupation outside the city’s 4th Precinct police station in protest. Mayor Betsy Hodges requested the civil rights investigation.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension determined that Ringgenberg and Schwarze were responding to a call of a man interfering with paramedics when they demanded Clark take his hands out of his pockets. He refused, prompting Ringgenberg to handcuff Clark and bring him down to the ground. After a struggle broke out and Clark reached for Ringgenberg’s gun, Schwarze shot him in the head, investigators said.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced in March he would not pursue criminal charges against the officers and said there was no bruising on Clark’s wrists to indicate he was in handcuffs at the time of the shooting. Clark’s DNA was found on Ringgenberg’s gun.
But witnesses insist Clark was cuffed and have pointed out that the encounter lasted less than a minute from the time officers first arrived. An internal police investigation is still underway.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, said federal officials were obtuse about their investigation. She posted the following message to Facebook:
"Friends, we just found out that there has been an attempt to hoodwink and bamboozle us by the powers that be in the Jamar Clark case. As you may know, the news media has been reporting that the press conference by the U.S. Attorney's office/DOJ would be held at 11 am today. Many of us who are considered to be community leaders were falsely told that the press conference would be held at 1:30 pm today. After questioning a government official about this discrepancy, we were told that the 1:30 meeting is actually a meeting with community leaders. Only the press and federal authorities will be allowed in the 11 am press conference. It is unacceptable for government leaders to exclude those of us who have been on the front lines demanding #Justice4Jamar and it is even worse that they would blatantly lie to us about the nature of the 1:30 pm meeting. We already know that there will be zero accountability for the officers who shot Jamar Clark in the head. They will attempt to justify the killing of Jamar Clark in manner similar to Mike Freeman. There is already a question of whether this investigation was actually 'independent' if they relied upon the BCA for assistance."