By Marino Eccher and Elizabeth Mohr, pioneerpress.com
Two Minneapolis police officers will face no charges in the shooting death of Jamar Clark — a decision that prompted an immediate outcry from activists, who said they didn’t trust the way the case was handled and were livid about how the deadly encounter unfolded.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the decision Wednesday morning. He said the evidence in the case didn’t clear the “high bar” required to convict officers for using lethal force in the line of duty, instead laying out a version of events in which the officers shot Clark after he grabbed for an officer’s gun during a struggle last fall.
Freeman said forensic evidence — including DNA on the gun grip — supported the accounts of the two officers involved. He said it didn’t match accounts from other witnesses that Clark was handcuffed when he was shot.
Clark’s death came amid national public outcry against police shootings involving people of color; Clark was black and the two officers involved were white.
A group of activists in the room Wednesday, including members of the local chapters of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter, accused Freeman of force-feeding a story that supported the police and marginalized civilian witnesses.
The group was upset in particular when shown video of the officers confronting Clark, in which he was seemingly complacent before an officer pulled him to the ground, exclaiming, “How was that resisting?” and, “That was murder!” as the footage played.
“Your entire narrative today was to push the propaganda of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Raeisha Williams, communications chair of the Minneapolis NAACP, told Freeman amid a flurry of heated comments.
She added: “If the city burns, it’s on your hands.”
Freeman said he wasn’t trying to color the perception of what happened. He released videos of the incident from a variety of sources, a summary of the evidence in the case and other documents that he said ultimately informed his decision not to bring charges.
“You can review virtually every piece of material that we reviewed before making our charging decisions, and you can draw your own conclusions,” he said. The prosecutor made the decision himself, rather than forward the case to a grand jury, something Clark’s supporters had opposed because such panels operate in secret.
A federal investigation is also underway.
“The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, and FBI Minneapolis Division continue to investigate whether the death of Jamar Clark violated any federal criminal civil rights laws. … While the investigation is ongoing the Department will have no further comment,” according to a statement from a DOJ spokesman.
The Minneapolis Police Department will perform its own internal affairs investigation once the federal investigation is completed, the department said Wednesday.