Some questions, answers about fatal police shooting

Published 3:14 pm Saturday, November 28, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS  — The fatal shooting of a black man by a Minneapolis police officer has prompted nearly two weeks of protests and led to calls for answers as state and federal authorities continue to investigate.

Jamar Clark was shot in the head Nov. 15 and was taken off life support a day later. Police initially said the 24-year-old was a suspect in an assault and was interfering with paramedics who were trying to help the victim. Police said Clark struggled and was shot by an officer. Some who claim they saw the shooting said Clark was handcuffed at the time, which police dispute.

Here’s a look at the case and what lies ahead:

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What happened that night?

There are still many unanswered questions and different versions of events. While some say Clark was handcuffed, an attorney for one of the officers has said Clark wasn’t handcuffed and had his hands on an officer’s gun when he was shot. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has said handcuffs were at the scene and investigators were trying to determine whether they were on Clark or had simply fallen. Few other details have been released.

Who’s investigating?

There are two criminal investigations underway. The state BCA is determining whether the two officers — Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze — violated state laws. The results of their investigation will go to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who will present the case to a grand jury for possible charges.

The FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are conducting a federal 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.

Which officer shot Clark?

Authorities and attorneys for the officers haven’t said. Both Ringgenberg and Schwarze are on paid administrative leave while the investigations continue. Each of the officers has about seven years of experience, including roughly 13 months with the Minneapolis Police Department.

What does the video show?

That’s unclear. At least some portions of the incident were captured by various video sources — including an ambulance camera, a mobile police camera and the cellphones of some bystanders — but authorities have said that none show the event in full. Gov. Mark Dayton said he viewed the ambulance video and it was inconclusive. Protesters have demanded that video be released, but authorities have said doing so at this time would taint the investigation.

Has there been violence?

Five protesters suffered gunshot wounds that weren’t life-threatening after some men who didn’t appear to belong at the protest started shooting when told to leave. The shooting happened after days of racially disparaging comments had been posted online.

Four men were arrested and a state prosecutor has until noon Monday to decide whether to charge them. The men are all in their 20s. Three are white, and the race of the fourth is Asian.

There have also been occasional clashes with police and ongoing tension between officers and protesters. But overall, the protests have been peaceful.

What’s next?

Clark’s death has also amplified calls to address economic disparities between Minnesota’s white and black residents.

At Clark’s funeral Wednesday, several speakers gave impassioned calls for justice. Bishop Richard Howell told mourners it’s time to take their demands to the next level. “Now we have the opportunity and the need to move forward from the 4th Precinct to the Capitol of Minnesota,” he said. He added that it’s time for a special session to address the community’s needs, an idea Dayton has backed.

As far as rallies go, members of the East African community plan to stand in solidarity with protesters at the precinct Saturday, and an outdoor church service is planned at the site Sunday.