Feds Decline to Charge Cops in Jamar Clark Death
Minnesota’s U.S. attorney on Wednesday declined to file criminal civil rights charges against two white Minneapolis police officers in the November shooting death of a black man that sparked weeks of protests.
Andrew Luger said there was insufficient evidence to support charges against the two officers who attempted to arrest Jamar Clark, 24, following a report that he was interfering with paramedics treating an assault victim.
Clark was shot once in the head Nov. 15 and died a day later.
A key issue was whether or not Clark was handcuffed when he was shot. Luger said at a news conference that evidence indicated Clark was not restrained at the time.
“This is one of the highest legal standards under criminal law,” Luger told reporters . “It is not enough to show the officers made a mistake, that they acted negligently, by accident or even that they exercised bad judgment to prove a crime. We would have had to show that they specifically intended to commit a crime.”
He said the lack of bruising, DNA on the handcuffs and conflicting testimony on his being handcuffed hindered federal prosecutors from pursuing the case.
Luger said “highly contradictory” testimony from witnesses would make it too difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze acted outside the law.
The killing set off weeks of protests, including an 18-day tent encampment outside the police department’s 4th Precinct on the north side.
According to a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation, Clark refused to remove his hands from his pockets. The officers tried to handcuff him but failed. Ringgenberg wrestled Clark to the ground but wound up on his back atop Clark and felt Clark’s hand on his weapon, according to the investigation.
Schwarze then shot Clark in an encounter that lasted barely more than a minute from the time the officers arrived.
“There are no winners here.” Luger said, adding: “A young man has died. And it is tragic.”
The decision not to prosecute upset Clark’s family members, who waited at the FBI building in Minneapolis, but they did not speak to media.
However Nekima Levy-Pounds, head of the Minneapolis NAACP expressed the sentiments of a frustrated community. “We are tired of what is happening” and being “treated like second-class citizens,” she said to reporters. “They don’t want to give us justice.”
The Clark shooting spurred state lawmakers to examine longstanding complaints of racial inequities, particularly on the impoverished north side. Advocates requested more investment in minority-owned businesses and a summer job program for black teens, and lawmakers this spring set aside $35 million.