Jamar Clark died from a gunshot wound to the head after an encounter with two Minneapolis police officers – Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze – in North Minneapolis early in the morning of Nov. 15. Some witnesses have said Clark, who was 24, was handcuffed when he was shot. A police union official said Clark was trying to grab an officer’s gun when he was shot. County, state and federal officials investigated the shooting. Clark’s funeral took place Nov. 25.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced on March 30 that his office will not bring charges against officers Ringgenberg and Schwarze in Clark’s death. Freeman also said that based on officers’ testimony, some witness statements and forensic evidence that Clark was not handcuffed at the time of the shooting. Freeman said the evidence supports the officers’ account that Clark grabbed one of their guns. The county attorney’s office released a large trove of documents related to the investigation.
The shooting highlighted the often strained relationship between residents of Minneapolis’ North Side and the city’s police department. It has also brought more attention to the economic struggles of Minnesota’s black residents, who badly trail their white counterparts in terms of household income and educational achievement.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced March 16 that it will eliminate the use of a grand jury in police-involved shootings, including the death of Jamar Clark, acceding to one of the demands of protesters. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau warned protesters on March 24 that violence will not be tolerated in response to a decision on whether to charge the officers.
Here’s what we know about the incident and the events that followed. Click one of the links below to jump to a section.
– The confrontation began at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday in the 1600 block of Plymouth Avenue N. Police responded to a disturbance call across the street from the Elks Lodge, a popular neighborhood hangout less than two blocks from the precinct station.
– Nekelia Sharp, a neighbor, said an ambulance was called after Clark and his girlfriend got into an argument. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on March 30 identified Clark’s girlfriend for the first time as RayAnn Hayes. While paramedics were taking Hayes away, Clark tried to talk to her and that’s when he was handcuffed and then shot, Sharp said.
– A statement from the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP said that according to “numerous witness accounts … Upon arriving at the scene, the police placed the victim in handcuffs and slammed him to the ground.”
– According to police scanner audio of the incident posted on the MN Police Clips Facebook page the apparent domestic confrontation started in an apartment. An officer is later heard requesting all available squad cars, saying, “We’ve got a big crowd; we need a lot of cops.”
– A statement from police said that officers answered a call about an assault and were then alerted that Clark “had returned to the area and was confronting paramedics and disrupting their ability to render aid” to his girlfriend.
– Bystanders swarmed as emergency vehicles were responding. In a video posted on Facebook by a witness, one woman was repeatedly shouting, “Y’all just killed that man!” Others nearby were pointing at police and taunting them. A few seconds of the video showed an emergency responder kneeling over someone on the ground.
– The NAACP statement quoted witness Teto Wilson, who said Clark “was just laying there. He was not resisting arrest. 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.”
– Witnesses said that officers pushed the increasingly agitated crowd back toward the Elks Lodge across the street and that several people were pepper-sprayed.
The immediate aftermath
– Clark’s death prompted a week of mostly peaceful protests and marches, including a visit by the national president of the NAACP.
– A rally called by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis began Nov. 15 at the shooting scene and continued into the evening a few blocks away outside the police department’s Fourth Precinct headquarters.
– On Nov. 16, about 100 protesters had moved across Interstate 94 south of Broadway, where they linked arms and blocked traffic lanes for more than two hours before State Patrol officers moved in and arrested 43 adults, including Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, and eight juveniles, according to police.
– Friends of Clark’s family said Nov. 17 that he had been removed from life support and that family members were making funeral arrangements.
– On Nov. 17, police moved to break up the protesters camped in front of the north Minneapolis precinct headquarters and set up barricades outside the building. Police released pepper spray on at least two occasions over the course of the night as the protests continued.
– Saying there is a “criminal justice crisis” in Minnesota, national NAACP President Cornell Brooks spoke at a candlelight vigil for Clark in Minneapolis on Nov. 20. Brooks also met with Mayor Hodges, Gov. Mark Dayton and local leaders.
– Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the police union, said the shooting happened after Clark allegedly tried to grab one of the officer’s guns when they responded to a paramedic’s 911 call for help early Sunday morning and scuffled with Clark.
– A grainy 59-second video appeared on the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook page Nov. 22. The online post says the video shows Clark “moments after he was shot in the head by Minneapolis Police. At the 29 second mark, you can see Jamar’s body appears to be lifeless on the ground with his hands in handcuffs, just as numerous witnesses have reported from day one.” The jerky, handheld video depicts at least one officer with a pistol drawn and bystanders yelling at officers.
– A lawsuit was filed in January by two women who say Minneapolis police officers hit them with nightsticks during a Nov. 18 clash with protesters outside the Fourth Precinct.
– Police Chief Janeé Harteau said on Nov. 15 that her department’s preliminary information was that Clark was not handcuffed when police shot him.
– The Minneapolis Police Department turned the investigation over to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
– Officers Ringgenberg and Schwarze were placed on administrative leave but returned to police desk jobs in January.
– In a letter to Justice Department officials, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges wrote that she and Harteau have “utmost faith” in the state investigation but that they believe a federal probe will assist “the interests of transparency and community confidence.”
– Black Lives Matter had cited a federal investigation as one item on a broader list of demands. The group also called for the city to release any video footage it may have of the shooting and to immediately fire the officers involved in the incident.
– The U.S. attorney’s office said Nov. 17 that the FBI would conduct the federal investigation requested by the mayor, with an independent review of all evidence by the office as well as U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors
– At a Nov. 17 news conference, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said that there are videos from the shooting but that none shows the full incident that left Clark dead. The videos came from an ambulance, a public housing building, the cellphones of bystanders and a police mobile video station. There is no video from any police car or officer body cameras. The BCA is working with a nearby Elks Lodge to examine its exterior video.
– No video will be released, Evans said, until the investigation is complete, which could take two to four months. He said the video will be withheld for now because “we don’t want to taint the interviews with the witnesses.”
– The BCA on Nov. 18 identified the officers as Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28. Each has seven years policing experience, including the last 13 months with Minneapolis.
– The Hennepin County medical examiner said Clark, 24, died Nov. 16 as the result of a single gunshot to the head.
– Gov. Mark Dayton said Nov. 23 that he had reviewed video footage from an ambulance at the scene, but it appeared to be inconclusive.
– The Justice Department announced March 3 that it will conduct an exhaustive look into how Minneapolis police responded to the 18-day occupation and protests outside Fourth Precinct headquarters in the wake of Clark’s shooting.
– On March 16, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the county will eliminate the long-standing and secret use of a grand jury in police-involved shootings, including the death of Jamar Clark.
– Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced March 30 that his office will not bring charges against officers Ringgenberg and Schwarze in the death of Jamar Clark.
– Freeman said that based on officers’ testimony, some witness statements and forensic evidence that Clark was not handcuffed at the time of the shooting. His office released several photos of Clark’s wrists taken at the hospital after the incident that don’t show cuff marks. The medical examiner also noted that his wrist’s had “no occult contusions, or other injuries suggestive of restraint.” An examination of the handcuffs also indicated Clark wasn’t wearing them.
– Of 30 people interviewed after the incident, many seemed to recall the incident differently. Ten police officers and paramedics said Clark was not handcuffed. Two civilians said he wasn’t, six weren’t sure and 12 said they were “certain” that Clark was in cuffs, though some disagreed on whether his hands were restrained in front or back of his body, or if one or both of his hands were cuffed.
– Freeman said evidence supports the officers’ account that Clark had a hand on Ringgenberg’s holstered gun during the scuffle on the ground and ignored repeated orders to “let go” of the weapon.
– The BCA forensic analysis shows that DNA likely belonging to Clark was found on Officer Mark Ringgenberg’s SIG Sauer handgun grips. While the police say he grabbed the gun, the presence of DNA does not exclude the possibility that it got onto the gun by some other means. Clark’s DNA was not found on other parts of the gun, including the trigger, slide and magazine bottom.
– In a video released by the county attorney’s office, the two officers approach Clark, who is initially out of the frame. Clark enters the frame with Ringgenberg behind him. The officer is shown swinging an arm around Clark’s neck and pulling him down to the ground, where Freeman said the two struggled and Clark reached for Ringgenberg’s gun, prompting Schwarze to shoot Clark.