MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Minneapolis police Officers Mike Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze will not face charges in the November shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Wednesday.
Schwarze shot Clark only after Ringgenberg scuffled with Clark, during which time Clark took control of Ringgenberg's gun and Ringgenberg told Schwarze to open fire, the prosecutor said.
Investigators concluded that the officers acted in self-defense, he said.
"(Schwarze's) actions were reasonable given both his observations and Ringgenberg's plea," Freeman said.
The investigation included 122 Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reports, 1,370 pages of autopsy reports, 21 DNA reports and 97 Minneapolis Police Department supplemental reports, all of which Freeman said took him 31 hours to read.
The reports demonstrated that Clark had attacked his girlfriend, interfered with paramedics attempting to transport his girlfriend to the hospital and refused officers' demands to remove his hands from his pockets, Freeman said.
Ringgenberg and Schwarze then took Clark to the ground in an attempt to place handcuffs on him, but during the scuffle, Ringgenberg landed on top of Clark, who then went for Ringgenberg's gun, the prosecutor said.
When Ringgenberg felt his gun move from his right hip to the small of his back, he told Schwarze, "He's got my gun," Freeman said. Schwarze instructed Clark to release the weapon or Schwarze would shoot; Clark refused and Ringgenberg told Schwarze, "I'm ready to die," according to the prosecutor.
It was then that Schwarze shot Clark near the front of his head, Freeman said, explaining that the officers had reason to believe Clark posed a threat of great bodily harm or death to the officers and general public.
Details of Clark's death had been murky, angering residents and prompting the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and the NAACP chapter in Minneapolis to sue the state's Department of Public Safety in hopes of getting videos that show the fatal shooting.
Clark was shot on November 15. He died at a hospital a day later.
Clark's death sparked widespread protests.
Five people were wounded in November when gunfire erupted near a Minneapolis police precinct where activists were demonstrating. In other protests, demonstrators stopped traffic on an interstate and disrupted travelers trying to get into an airport.
A lawyer said Clark had control of an officer's gun. However, several witnesses said Clark was restrained when a bullet struck him in the head. One witness told CNN he thought Clark was in handcuffs. Police and attorneys have disputed those claims.
Freeman addressed the witnesses' accounts during his Wednesday news conference, calling them conflicting. Of 20 witnesses, he said, two said Clark was not handcuffed, six said they were uncertain and 12 said he was handcuffed, though they disagreed on whether he was handcuffed with his hands in front of him, his hands behind him or only on his left hand.
Forensic evidence further demonstrated that Clark had no wrist wounds that would've resulted from being handcuffed during the tussle, and blood found on the handcuffs suggests they were on the ground, not on Clark's wrists, when he was shot, Freeman said.
Clark was African-American; the officers are white.
His death is the latest in a string of controversial police killings that includes the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Minneapolis on edge
Bracing for the possibility of more protests, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau released a message on March 24, warning activists and others that violence would not be tolerated.
"The Minneapolis Police Department has a long history of helping residents and those who visit our city exercise their First Amendment rights. It is also our responsibility to do everything in our power to keep people safe," she said. "We will not tolerate acts of violence against anyone, and that includes acts of violence against our officers."
The chief continued: "We will not allow people to set fires on our streets or occupy and vandalize our buildings. We will not allow people to jeopardize the safety of others by causing massive disruptions and hindering emergency vehicles from helping those in need. The (Minneapolis Police Department) has to, and will, strike a balance between First Amendment rights with the safety of everyone."