5 years later, Jamar Clark shooting shaping future investigations

It’s been five years since Minneapolis swelled with outrage after police shot and killed Jamar Clark outside a north Minneapolis home.

Clark’s death struck a nerve in the Twin Cities and around the country that led to significant changes that still hold up today.

“Still fresh. Still hurts,” said Steve Belton, President of Urban League Twin Cities. Belton said he always disagreed with the decision not to charge the Minneapolis Police officers involved.

Investigators said Clark had reached for an officer’s gun during a struggle. It led to massive protests and even an 18-day occupation of the north Minneapolis police precinct.

“It happened in the context of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner in New York. It happened in a moment where this country was wrestling with these very issues,” Belton said.

In Minneapolis, it also led to significant changes.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that he would no longer bring shootings by police to a grand jury — he would instead make the charging decision himself moving forward.

He’s the one who made the decision to not charge the officers in the Clark case.

The Minneapolis Police Department also made changes that actually started with the Clark shooting. The department decided to make it standard operating procedure, beginning with the Clark shooting, to bring in outside investigators at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to handle all cases in which an officer shoots someone.

“I think the most important thing is that the changes are broader, wider and more cohesive expectation of police transparency," Belton said. “Frankly, I think the legacy of the Jamar killing has more to do with the activism that was created in the wake of that tragedy. So you have an entire generation of new activists, younger people.”

Protests and rallies continue to this day in Jamar Clark’s name.

On Saturday, dozens of people showed up to honor his memory on the anniversary and continue to fight for justice.

City leaders also learned some lessons handling protests. A few years after Jamar Clark’s shooting, the Department of Justice slammed the city’s response to the unrest, saying there was no plan and no clearly defined roles in dealing with what became a long-term event.

Although no charges were filed and the officers were cleared of wrongdoing, the city still paid out more than $200,000 to the Clark family to settle civil litigation.