MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis prosecutor will announce on Wednesday whether two officers will be charged in the fatal shooting of a black man in November that prompted protests and an 18-day encampment outside a city police precinct.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will announce his decision in the death of Jamar Clark, 24, at 10:30 a.m.
Clark was shot during what authorities called a struggle with Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. But some people who say they saw the shooting have said Clark wasn’t struggling and was handcuffed.
Police said the shooting happened after they responded to a report of an assault in north Minneapolis early Nov. 15 and arrived to find Clark, who was a suspect, interfering with paramedics assisting the female victim. Officers said they tried to calm him, but there was a struggle and an officer fired at least once, hitting Clark. He died a day later of a gunshot wound to the head.
The head of the police union said Clark had his hands on an officer’s gun.
Freeman first planned to send the case to a grand jury to decide on charges, but earlier this month announced he would decide himself. Minneapolis police Chief Janae Harteau issued a videotaped statement last week warning protesters that authorities would not tolerate violence. Activists posted a video response Tuesday, urging police to refrain from using excessive force as demonstrators exercise First Amendment rights.
Investigators had video of Clark’s shooting from several sources, but said early on that it didn’t provide a full picture of what happened. According to Freeman’s office, the prosecutor plans to talk in detail about evidence in the case and show video.
Protesters who have called for the videos’ release also had demanded the case not go to a grand jury.
Public skepticism over grand juries, who do their work in secret, grew after police officers weren’t indicted in the high-profile deaths of blacks in other cities, including the fatal 2014 shootings of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 2014 chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York. But grand juries reached indictments in other cases, including in Chicago, where an officer faces murder charges in the 2014 death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whose shooting was captured on video.
The state of Minnesota investigated whether Ringgenberg, who is white, and Schwarze, whose race hasn’t been released, violated state laws, and the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are conducting a federal criminal investigation to determine whether police intentionally violated Clark’s civil rights through excessive force. That’s a high legal standard because an accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to bring federal charges.
The Department of Justice also is reviewing how the city responded to protests after Clark’s death.
Protesters, which included organizers of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, the Minneapolis NAACP and other community groups and citizens, raised the issue of difficult relations between black residents and Minneapolis police.
The unrest over Clark’s death also included demands that city and state leaders do more about persistent poverty seen as the root of racial tensions. The state is considering funneling millions of dollars toward job training, loans and other initiatives to help black residents get ahead.
The protests were largely peaceful. Four men were charged with felonies in a Nov. 23 attack on protesters that prosecutors say was racially motivated. One of the men allegedly fired shots at protesters, leaving five with injuries that were not life-threatening.