Two Minneapolis police officers will not face charges for last November’s fatal shooting of Jamar Clark.
At the time, witnesses claimed Clark was handcuffed when he was shot in the head, kicking off weeks of protests at the police station and across the city. However, during a press conference announcing the decision, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Clark was not handcuffed at the time he struggled with police.
Freeman detailed the reasons for his decision during a lengthy press conference. According to the Star Tribune, the investigation into the shooting found:
- Clark was not handcuffed, as some witnesses contended, when he struggled with two officers.
- Clark had his hand on officer Mark Ringgenberg’s handgun during the scuffle on the ground and ignored repeated orders to remove his hand from the weapon.
- During the altercation, Clark said on more than one occasion, “I am ready to die.”
The tragic event began on November 15 when Clark reportedly got into a domestic altercation with his girlfriend. When she was placed in an ambulance for treatment, Clark allegedly tried to talk to her, prompting police to step in.
The Star Tribune detailed what happened next:
Officers told Clark to put his hands in his pockets and he wouldn’t. Officer Mark Ringgenberg put his gun back in the holster and grabbed Clark’s right wrist. Officer Dustin Schwarze grabbed Clark’s other arm and dropped the handcuffs while trying to cuff him. Ringgenberg then tried a takedown move and they both fell to the ground and Ringgenberg’s back was to Clark’s stomach. Ringgenberg felt his gun go from his hip to the small of his back. Ringgenberg reached back and felt Clark’s hand on his gun. He repeatedly told Schwarze: “He’s got my gun, he’s got my gun.’
Schwarze put his gun to edge of Clark’s mouth and said “Let go or I’m going to shoot you.”
Schwarze said Clark looked at him and said “I’m ready to die.”
Schwarze pulled the trigger once, but the slide caught. He pulled the trigger again and the gun went off, 61 seconds after the initial encounter began.
While Freeman acknowledged “police have a very difficult job” because “they are of required to make split second decisions,” he also said they “must use peaceful methods first, and be willing to tactically withdraw.”
The officers involved in Clark’s shooting were initially placed on administrative leave, but returned to desk duty in January.
During the press conference, one listener warned Freeman: “If the city burns, it is on your hands.”