Two police officers will not be charged in the death of Jamar Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday. The 24-year-old Clark was fatally shot in the head during a November 2015 scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers.
Police say Clark was shot when he reached for one of the officers' service weapons, but witnesses say Clark was handcuffed and on the ground when he was shot. The two conflicting stories sparked weeks of protest following Clark's death. "These officers were called upon to respond to a person who assaulted his girlfriend and intervened with paramedics," Freeman said on Wednesday. He added, "The only time manslaughter or murder can be filed against a police officer is when the use of deadly force is not justified."
Freeman further justified the shooting of Clark by noting that he had assaulted and bloodied a woman prior to the officers' arrival, and that responding paramedics told police that Clark threatened the woman and called them "pussy" and "bitch" for not letting him into the ambulance with her. When officers arrived, Freeman said, Clark reportedly would not take his hand out of his pocket, and so the cops drew their weapons. They reportedly put their guns away, tried to arrest him, and accidentally dropped the cuffs. During the following scuffle, one of the officers said he felt Clark's whole hand on his gun. Officer Mark Ringgenberg reportedly told his partner: "He's got my gun."
In response, officer Dustin Schwarze dropped the handcuffs and told Clark he would shoot him in the head if he didn't let go. Clark allegedly responded: "I'm ready to die." Then he was shot. The paramedics on the scene told investigators that when they looked outside, they saw Clark's hands alongside his body. When they moved to put Clark on a stretcher, they reportedly saw handcuffs lying on the ground near his body, Freeman said. Photos were taken of Clark's wrists, and police and forensics officials both reported that he had no bruises or marks that would indicate handcuffs at the time he was shot or afterward.
"There are conflicting accounts of whether Clark was handcuffed," Freeman said, including interviews with 20 witnesses. The ones who believed Clark was wearing handcuffs had different stories about whether those cuffs were on both hands, one hand, the front of his body, or the back of his body.
Freeman said forensic evidence shows that Clark grabbed Ringgenberg's holster and mace-holder, also indicating he wasn't wearing handcuffs. The inside of the handcuffs were swabbed for DNA. Those tests came back negative, Freeman said.