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Hodges asks feds for civil rights probe in Mpls. police shooting

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Protesters block northbound Interstate 94
Monday night, protesters blocked northbound Interstate 94 near the Broadway exit during a march that began at the 4th Precinct.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Updated 5:20 p.m. | Posted 6:13 a.m.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Monday she's asked the United States Justice Department for a federal civil rights investigation into Sunday's police shooting in north Minneapolis. 

Hodges said that while she had "great confidence" in Minneapolis police investigators and in the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a Justice Department investigation would promote transparency and community trust. Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement he also supports the request.

Police Chief Janee Harteau said she backed the move but added, "This is not a predetermination of anyone's actions ... Everyone involved needs and deserves the truth and the facts."

The Justice Department request came hours after angry protesters rallied outside a police station in north Minneapolis demanding federal authorities examine what happened on Sunday. They also called for the release of surveillance video from a building across the street from where the shooting happened.

Community members contend Clark was unarmed and on the ground when he was shot.

Earlier in the day, family members identified the man shot by police as Jamar Clark, 24, and said they believe he may not survive.

Speaking to reporters Monday morning outside the precinct station, Jamar Clark's father, James Hill, said the shooting had left his son "brain dead." Hill said he was waiting for family members to arrive from out of town before discontinuing life support.

He said Clark wasn't a bad kid. "I love my son. The police don't care, the mayor don't care, the police superintendent don't care," he said. "I really just want to see some justice, or something, done."

Black Lives Matter-Minneapolis protest march
On Sunday, protesters made their way from the scene of the shooting to the Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct station a few blocks away on Plymouth Avenue. Hundreds of people joined the rally and march.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Police said Clark had come out to an ambulance just before 1 a.m. Sunday as a woman was being treated outside a late-night birthday party. Witnesses said Clark was shot by a Minneapolis officer called to help.

People at the scene said the incident started as a series of assaults at the birthday party, including one involving Clark and his girlfriend.

Neighbor Kiesha Steele said she was on her porch when she saw a man approach an ambulance where paramedics were apparently attending to one of the partygoers. She said police pulled up and approached him.

"When the Minneapolis police got out of the car, they each took an arm, they arrested him, put him on the ground, the EMS commander put his knee on the man's chest, which is Jamar, and as soon as he put his knee on his chest, all you hear is the gunshot," she said. "... As soon as he got shot, the police took him, threw him in the ambulance. They released one arm — the right arm still had the handcuff on him." 

The party where the trouble started was for Nekelia Sharp. She said she was in her yard and saw the officer fire.

"He took his gun and he shot this man in cold blood," she said. "I'm sorry that this happened to the family, but I feel like we need justice. Because it's not right. This young man was in handcuffs. He did not resist. There was not a struggle and no questions were asked." 

Protesters outside police station
A handful of Black Lives Matter demonstrators camped out at the entrance of the Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct entrance overnight Sunday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Witnesses differed with the official account in several aspects. 

Police said the man shot by an officer was initially reported to be interfering with paramedics at the scene. Harteau said the medics called for help.

"When officers arrived there was a confrontation and struggle," she said. 

She said one of the officers fired during the struggle. Two officers have been placed on administrative leave.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting the official investigation into the shooting. It's expected to take several months.

"There were handcuffs at the scene. Preliminarily, the subject was not in handcuffs at the time of this, but that is part of the active investigation," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said. 

Both called for any witnesses with more information to contact the BCA.

The details of the incident had demonstrators comparing it to the death of 17-year-old Tycel Nelson, a police-involved shooting that prompted outrage in north Minneapolis in 1990. Others compared it to the shooting death of Oscar Grant at the hands of a transit police officer in Oakland in 2009.

Critics demanded, and got an independent investigation of the latest incident in Minneapolis, a shift in the recent debate over whether the city's police should investigate its own officers. 

Nekima Levy-Pounds, head of the Minneapolis NAACP, said she feared the truth still won't be uncovered.

"Well, we don't trust Minnesota law enforcement agencies to hold each other accountable, "she said. "So while it's notable on the one hand that they responded to the request for an independent investigation that we made earlier today, we actually want federal intervention into this investigation." 

Protesters are camped out at the front door of the Police Department's 4th Precinct and have vowed to stay until they're arrested. They've also started an online campaign to raise money for a defense fund if they're taken into custody.

John Martin, a community activist, urged the community Monday "to keep calm, hold your peace, because help is on the way and we're going to get exactly what we want, which is answers and accountability."

He vowed precinct protests would continue "until we find out what happened," adding "we don't need more listening sessions," an apparent reference to the initial, heated community meeting with Hodges and Harteau.

"The mayor, the police chief and the media don't know what happened," Martin said. "But we're going to find out what happened."

A Justice Department spokesman said the department received Hodges' investigation request this afternoon and that it was under review.

Harteau late Monday declined substantial comment on the case other than to say the officers involved in the incident were not wearing body cameras and that Clark's condition had not changed.

Protesters have also demanded the names of those officers involved in the shooting incident but authorities said they were not prepared to release the names yet.

Two officers connected to the incident are expected to meet soon with state investigators, said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. The names won't be released until those meetings are complete, she said.