MINNEAPOLIS — State officials on Wednesday identified the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark over the weekend, sparking days of protests and demonstrations here and a federal investigation.
Clark, a black 24-year-old, was shot early Sunday morning and died the following day, authorities said Tuesday. Drew Evans, superintendent of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the group investigating the shooting, said Clark was unarmed when he was shot, and a coroner’s report released later in the day showed that the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head.
On Wednesday, the BCA named the two officers who were involved in the shooting: Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Both officers have been with the Minneapolis police for a little over a year and have each been officers for seven years, the BCA said in a statement. They are on leave during the investigation.
Dozens of protesters had remained outside the Fourth Precinct office of the Minneapolis Police Department on a rainy Tuesday night to call for more information about what happened when Clark encountered the officers.
The story of the fatal bullet, and what preceded and followed it, differs greatly between the witnesses and police who were there. The story of Clark, and everything that preceded and followed Sunday morning, is itself tied to a broader national conversation on race, policing and the growing power of the Black Lives Matter movement in unifying marginalized communities in the United States.
Police say they were called shortly before 12:45 a.m. by paramedics who had been responding to an assault because the suspect in that assault was interfering in some way. The officers encountered Clark and, at some point, “an officer discharged his weapon, striking” Clark, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
Several people who say they were in the neighborhood said the shooting happened across the street from a bar not far from the Fourth Precinct.
Some witnesses have said that Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, while police have said that did not appear to be the case. Evans said Tuesday that authorities were still working to determine whether he was handcuffed.
The FBI has announced that it will conduct its own investigation, while the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota and Justice Department prosecutors will review evidence to see whether any civil rights statutes were violated.
The shooting has drawn national attention and has become the latest in a series of deadly encounters involving police officers and black men to spark controversy.
“These are not isolated incidents,” said Jobi Adams, a 20-year-old protester. “We see this happening all the time on social media, we see it around the country and now, it’s in our community.”
Adams spent Monday night in jail after being arrested, along with 50 others, for participating in protests over Clark’s death that shut down Interstate 94 that evening. Upon her release Tuesday morning, she went to the Fourth Precinct to join 100 or so other protesters camped out front.
Investigators so far have said they do not have complete footage of the altercation, though Evans said they have some video from the ambulance, a fixed police camera in the area, a camera at a nearby public housing building and witness cellphone videos.
After marches Sunday and Monday, tents sprung up in front of the precinct, local businesses brought in coffee, snacks, sleeping bags and more for what many anticipate becoming long days.
“We aren’t leaving until they release the video footage,” Adams said.
Others said they wouldn’t leave the precinct until the officers responsible are named, or until an independent investigation, carried out by a third-party group outside of the Department of Justice or Minneapolis police, is conducted. Clark’s cousin, Cameron Clark, wants the officers involved to come out and talk to the protesters, to acknowledge what has happened.
“I don’t want to wait three months to hear about some investigation that’s being done by the guys who did this,” he said. “If I had shot a police officer, my name and his name would be all over the news by now.”
Adams and her friend Vannessa Taylor also say they want police to be less evasive. “They aren’t even coming out,” Taylor said pointing to the locked front door of the precinct. Adams added, “A mom came earlier to file a missing child’s report, and they wouldn’t come out. We had to take her down the road to find a cop in a patrol car who took her to another precinct.”
On the street in front of the precinct, local leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement reassured the crowd that they were talking with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Clark’s family to ensure some sort of independent investigation happens and that everyone’s definition of justice is heard. This dialogue could be the one thing that ultimately makes the days following Clark’s death different in Minnesota than what happened in Missouri or Baltimore.
“This is happening in impoverished communities of color all over the U.S.,” Duchess Harris, professor of American studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and author of the recent “Black Lives Matter” book for teens, said. “It’s not very different from Minnesota to Missouri.”
But Harris said in a telephone interview that “the leadership here is far and above what you’d see in many places.”
Adams said, “To be honest, they’re not going to send a bunch of police after us. The mayor, the police chief, they’re both pretty progressive. It’s not going to be because they’re looking out for us, it’s because they’re trying to save face.”
Clark’s cousin Cameron was reluctant to think about the coming days.
“I’m still hurting,” he said. “Why am I here? I always thought: ‘Cam, you might get caught someday. The police might try to get to you.’ ”
On his way home from a bar in another part of Minneapolis on Sunday morning, he had heard from friends that someone had been shot in his neighborhood.
“I heard someone with dreadlocks had been shot,” he said, “and I just kept thinking: ‘I hope that’s not my cousin. That can’t be my cousin.’ ”
The BCA will carry out the investigation into Clark’s death during the next two to four months, Evans said Tuesday. “It has been given top priority by the BCA,” he said.