After months of protest and tension in Minneapolis, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that he will not charge officers Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg for the killing of Jamar Clark, an unarmed man who died from a gunshot to the head. Freeman says Schwarze shot Clark within 61 seconds of his arrival at the scene of a domestic dispute. According to the county attorney, Clarke was resisting arrest and had his hand on Ringgenberg’s gun.
“In this case, Officer Ringgenberg subjectively believed that Clark had or was in the process of obtaining his weapon,” Freeman said on Wednesday. “Ringgenberg’s subjective belief is also objectively reasonable.”
“Criminal charges are not warranted,” he concluded.
When Clark was killed last November, 12 witnesses were adamant that he was handcuffed at the time. Police claim the 24-year-old was resisting arrest and grabbing for an officer’s gun, but also admitted that he was unarmed. Before Wednesday, authorities refused to release video footage captured by surveillance cameras and bystanders’ cell phones. Videos were shown for the first time during Freeman’s press conference.
According to Freeman, Clark’s DNA was found on Ringgenberg’s gun. He also said Clark was not handcuffed at the time.
Clark was declared brain dead the day after the shooting, and taken off of life support. Schwarze and Ringgenberg were initially placed on administrative leave, although they returned to desk duty in January.
Protesters took to the streets immediately after the shooting, which led to the occupation of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Fourth Precinct, highway and airport shutdowns, and a mass demonstration at the Mall of America.
Freeman’s decision comes two weeks after he announced the Hennepin County will no longer rely on grand juries to determine the fate of cops involved in killings, in response to public pressure from Black Lives Matter activists who fought against grand jury proceedings in the Clark case. None of the 15 Hennepin County officers involved in a police shooting in the past six years have been indicted by a grand jury.
“I concluded that the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome,” the prosecutor wrote in a statement. “So, at this point in time, and in a democracy where we continually strive to make our systems fairer, more just and more accountable, we in Hennepin County will not use the grand jury in the Jamar Clark case.”
In anticipation of Freeman’s final judgment, Police Chief Janeé Harteau issued a video warning that officers would crack down on protests.
“We will not allow people to set fires on our streets or occupy and vandalize our buildings,” she said. “We will not allow people to jeopardize the safety of others by causing massive disruptions and hindering emergency vehicles from helping those in need.” The video has already received backlash from civil rights groups.
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