Details leave public unconvinced
Minneapolis joined the likes of Ferguson and Chicago when, after four months of tense investigation and public unrest, two white police officers were deemed innocent of wrongdoing after fatally shooting an unarmed black man.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided not to charge officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze in the Nov. 15 killing of Jamar Clark. The ruling is the first under a new protocol in police shooting cases. For the foreseeable future, the Hennepin County attorney, not a grand jury, will have the final say on police shooting cases.
The verdict has shocked—but not surprised—Black Lives Matter activists and the Minneapolis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), both of whom supported the new protocol in hopes that forgoing a grand jury would lead to more accountability and transparency in decisions on police shooting cases.
In the wake of Freeman’s ruling, the events leading up to Clark’s death have come under intense scrutiny.
The night of Clark’s death, RayAnn Hayes, 41, called 911 for medical assistance for a broken ankle, an injury that she reported sustaining while intervening in a fight. Upon arriving at the scene, authorities identified Hayes as Clark’s girlfriend. Authorities report that when Hayes was treated, she said that her injuries were caused by a fight with her boyfriend, whom she identified as Clark. Witnesses recall Hayes throwing Clark into a door.
During an investigative review with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and further questioning, Hayes clarified that she and CLark were not romantically involved, nor were they fighting.
“I twisted my own ankle. He was on the ground trying to help me. I don’t know what everybody was talking about he was beating me up.”
The case was further complicated by opposing eyewitness accounts. During the altercation leading to Clark’s death, officer Ringgenberg grabbed Clark and took him to the ground, where he reports that Clark reached for his gun. Forensic report has found Clark’s DNA on Ringgenberg’s handgun grips, but not on other parts of the gun. Twelve eyewitnesses and Clark’s forensic report claim that Clark was not handcuffed when he was shot, while another twelve eyewitnesses claim that he was.
Although Freeman has ruled against convicting Ringgenberg and Schwarze, it is clear that Clark’s case is far from over.
Although Ringgenberg and Schwarze were outfitted with body cameras, Clark’s killing was not recorded. The officers did not turn on their lights and sirens, and therefore their body cameras were not automatically turned on. Grainy footage of the confrontation, filmed by a bystander, has been recovered and released to the public.
In the wake of Freeman’s decision, the Minneapolis NAACP has called for a reopening of the case, in hopes that a second review will find the officers guilty. Within the Minneapolis Police Department, a civil investigation is under way, soon to be followed by an internal review. Although Freeman has ruled against convicting Ringgenberg and Schwarze, it is clear that Clark’s case is far from over.