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‘We do want justice,’ says sister of unarmed black man killed by Minneapolis police

Minneapolis police shooting

Members of Black Lives Matter continue their encampment Tuesday outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct after the shooting death of Jamar Clark by a police officer during a struggle over the weekend. 

(Jim Mone / Associated Press)

Minnesota investigators on Tuesday released the names of two Minneapolis police officers who were involved in the shooting death of an unarmed black man over the weekend that sparked protests in the city and spurred a federal civil-rights investigation.

Officials have not said whether it was Officer Mark Ringgenberg or Officer Dustin Schwarze who shot 24-year-old Jamar Clark in the head early Sunday morning after they responded to a reported assault in north Minneapolis. The shooting, which happened outdoors, drew angry bystanders to the scene who shouted that Clark had been handcuffed when he was shot.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has taken over the local investigation, said that handcuffs were found at the scene, but the agency has not determined whether they had been placed on Clark.

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Ringgenberg and Schwarze have both been police officers for seven years and have been with the Minneapolis Police Department for just over one year. The department denied that Clark was in handcuffs.

Schwarze previously worked as an officer in the Richfield, Minn., police department. Ringgenberg previously worked at the police departments in Maple Grove and Osseo, Minn., and in San Diego, according to personnel records provided to the Los Angeles Times by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Records indicated that neither officer had won any awards during their short tenures with the Minneapolis Police Department. Officials have not provided information on whether either officer had been the subject of past disciplinary actions or complaints.

On Wednesday morning, Clark’s sister passionately defended her brother as a “decent person” who was popular with local children because he would give them a dollar to buy candy.

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“Everything that happened to him, he did not deserve .… [He did not] deserve to be shot down in the street,” Javille Burns said in a televised news conference. “We don’t want revenge. We do want justice.”

Police said the incident began when paramedics responded to a report of an assault in north Minneapolis about 12:45 a.m. Sunday.

Clark was suspected of assaulting a woman, and after paramedics arrived to treat her, he returned to the scene and interfered with their efforts, according to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has taken over the investigation. 

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, citing a neighbor, identified the woman as Clark’s girlfriend.

The paramedics called for police help, and two Minneapolis officers arrived and tried to calm the suspect, the Police Department said in a statement after the shooting. “A physical altercation took place with the suspect, who was not in handcuffs. At some point during the struggle, an officer discharged his weapon, striking the suspect.”

A crowd quickly gathered, yelling and cursing at police. Some alleged that police shot Clark while he was handcuffed, according to a bystander’s YouTube video of the scene.

“The young man was just laying there; he was not resisting arrest,” barber shop owner Teto Wilson, who witnessed the incident, said in a statement released through the Minneapolis NAACP.  "Two officers were surrounding the victim on the ground, an officer maneuvered his body around to shield Jamar’s body, and I heard the shot go off.”

In an interview with a local TV station, Wilson said he was not close enough to see whether Clark was handcuffed.

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A representative for the officers’ police union did not respond to messages Wednesday morning seeking further information about the officers.

The officers, who have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation, did not have dashboard or body cameras, Evans said at a televised news conference.

State investigators are examining surveillance and witness videos that recorded snippets of the incident, “none of which captured the event in its entirety,” said Evans, who said he would not release any video in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.

Clark died from a gunshot wound to the head, the Hennepin County  medical examiner said Tuesday, announcing the cause of death as a homicide.

Investigators will present the case to the Hennepin County attorney’s office to determine whether charges should be filed.

Evans added that the FBI would be conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting, which Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges had requested in a letter.

“We have utmost faith in the competence and independence of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension,” Hodges wrote in a letter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “Nevertheless, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and I believe it assists the interests of transparency and community confidence in the outcome of this investigation to have your review and consideration of this case.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota said the FBI’s probe would run side-by-side with the state investigation and would examine for “any prosecutable violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes.”

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The local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People has issued a statement claiming that Clark was “murdered, execution style.” Its leader has joined demonstrations in Minneapolis, including a protest that shut down Interstate 94 on Monday night and resulted in dozens of arrests.

“I want justice for my people,” chapter President Nekima Levy-Pounds said in a video the NAACP branch posted to Twitter that showed her kneeling on the freeway with her hands in the air, waiting to be arrested by police. “I’m tired of our people being killed like animals in the streets, and there being a lack of accountability within this criminal justice system. I’m not afraid. I’m sick and tired of this.”

The video showed a line of protesters, black and white, linking arms and blocking the freeway. 

Levy-Pounds was one of at least 42 protesters, including eight minors, who were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly and being pedestrians on the freeway, according to a spokeswoman from the Minnesota State Patrol. One trooper was punched by a demonstrator, who escaped arrest, the state patrol said. The trooper did not require medical treatment, and no other injuries were reported.

Police also arrested and charged KMSP-TV reporter Jack Highberger, who was reporting from the blocked freeway when he was detained on suspicion of failing to leave the scene, according to a video he posted to Facebook.

“Like all the other journalists on the side of I-94 Monday night, I was there for one reason. To do my job,” Highberger wrote in his caption for the video. “I have no intention of stopping.”

Follow @MattDPearce for national news.

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