Federal Authorities Join Jamar Clark Investigation in Minneapolis

November 15, 2017 10:33 AM

Prosecutors with the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division flew to Minnesota on Sunday to investigate the killing of a black man that has prompted protests and calls for the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting to be prosecuted.
    
A key issue during their visit will be whether authorities should publicly release videos of the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark a week ago.
    
Federal and state authorities have resisted releasing the footage - from an ambulance, mobile police camera, public housing cameras and people's cellphones - because they said it doesn't show the full incident and making the recordings public would compromise their investigations.
    
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said on Saturday that he had asked Clark's family and representatives of the Black Lives Matter group protesting his death to meet with the federal government lawyers.
    
"I will urge that the tapes be provided to the family and released to the public, as soon as doing so will not jeopardize the Department of Justice's investigation," Dayton said after meeting with the family and leaders of the protesters.
    
Dozens of demonstrators huddled around bonfires early Sunday in frigid temperatures at an encampment outside a Minneapolis police station that they have said will not be dismantled until their demands are met.

Jamar Clark's cousin, Cameron Clark, is among those demanding the release of footage. He said he wants to know what's public information, what's not, and why.

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"I will stay out here until release of the tapes and we get justice," Cameron Clark said.

Jamar Clark’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police has stoked fiery emotions in those camped out in front of the precinct.

"I'm not understanding what's taking so long; they're telling stories that Jamar tried to grab a gun and was hostile, if that's the case, they'd be out here releasing the video. What's holding the cops up?" Cameron Clark said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS put that question to the person who thoroughly knows Minnesota's data privacy law: Don Gemberling with the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information. 

"There are pieces of an investigation that are always public, it's a long list, the name of the person arrested, where the arrest occurred and the officer's involved," Gemberling said.

Gemberling said police incidents create a lot of data. In this case, it's controlled by the Minneapolis Police Department, the state-run Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice. That includes the collection of videos of Clark's divisive shooting death. 

According to state law, the videos are evidence in an active criminal investigation and are considered confidential. 

However, there are exceptions, including if giving the public access would aid the law enforcement process, promote public safety or dispel widespread rumor or unrest.

"When you have discretion in a tense and explosive situation you may not be intending to, but what you do unintentionally is say the word we've got something to hide," Gemberling said.

Gemberling went onto say it's a balance between protecting the investigation and the public's right to know.
    
Minneapolis civil rights activist Mel Reeves said the primary goal of the recent protests is to see the officers involved in the death of Jamar Clark prosecuted based on statements of people who say they saw the shooting. He said the officers should face charges and "go through the same procedures that we do. We think they're guilty, but let the court decide."

Both officers involved in the shooting, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, have been placed on standard administrative leave. Authorities haven't said who fired the fatal shot.

Police have said the officers were responding to an assault call and found the 24-year-old Clark interfering with paramedics. Authorities say there was a struggle. The head of the Minneapolis police union has said Clark was shot after reaching for an officer's gun. Protesters have said they don't believe that version of events.

Some people in the community say they saw him handcuffed at the time of the shooting - a claim police have disputed.

Despite cold weather, protesters remain outside the police 4th Precinct office. Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder said about 150 people were gathered Sunday night outside the precinct.

Funeral Plans Set

A cousin says Clark's funeral will be Wednesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis.

Kenya McKnight says the service will start at noon and last an hour. A visitation will be at the church before the funeral, from 10 a.m. to noon. McKnight says both will be open to the public and news media.

McKnight says Clark's family hopes there are no rallies on the day of the funeral. She says the family "does not want it to be political."
    
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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