Police union chief: Jamar Clark wasn't cuffed, went for officer's gun

Demonstrators on Interstate 94
The recent shooting of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis led to an outcry in the community, protests and calls for justice. Here, demonstrators blocked a portion of Interstate 94 Monday.
Jeff Wheeler | Star Tribune via AP

Updated 4:35 p.m. | Posted 11:17 a.m.

The head of the Minneapolis police union says Jamar Clark was not handcuffed during a confrontation with Minneapolis police and was shot after going for an officer's gun.

Clark was trying to disarm one of the officers during a physical altercation after squads responded to reports of a domestic assault, Lt. Bob Kroll said in an interview Wednesday with MPR News partner KARE 11.

Kroll's remarks stand in sharp contrast to what community members say happened during a Sunday morning confrontation in north Minneapolis. They came on the same day state investigators Wednesday named the officers involved in the shooting.

Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze are each seven-year police veterans with 13 months on the Minneapolis force.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said the pair responded to a request for help from paramedics reporting that a man, later identified as Clark, was "disrupting their ability to aid an assault victim at that location."

Citing Minneapolis police, the BCA said Clark was a suspect in the assault and that "at some point" during an altercation between the officers and Clark, "an officer discharged his weapon, striking Mr. Clark."

Clark, 24, of Minneapolis, died of that gunshot wound to the head, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office.

The shooting led to an outcry in the community, protests and calls for justice.

That continued Wednesday as leaders of the Minneapolis Urban League and other community groups renewed their demands that officials release all video they've gathered of the incident so far.

BCA officials have said they do not have complete video footage of the incident and will not release what they do have until after the investigation concludes, saying they fear early release will taint the investigation.

Community leaders, though, said the need for transparency outweighs any investigative concerns.

"This situation begs for explanation," Urban League Interim CEO Steven Belton told reporters. "The family deserves answers. They deserve clarity. They deserve closure but most of all they deserve justice."

He urged investigators to not release information piecemeal: "Don't comment a little and then say, 'We can't say anything.'"

The BCA said both officers remain on standard administrative leave. The agency did not release any other data on the officers and did not indicate which officer fired the shot that ultimately killed Clark.

Witnesses to the shooting also said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot. Minneapolis police said initially that he was not cuffed. BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said Tuesday that handcuffs were at the scene but that they are still investigating whether Clark was handcuffed.

The BCA is leading the investigation. The U.S. Justice Department has launched an inquiry as well for possible federal civil rights violations.

Belton and other community leaders Wednesday called for the release of the officers' service records.

Belton also said the Urban League is inviting witnesses in the neighborhood who are "unwilling or afraid" to speak directly to the police to come to its offices to make statement before a lawyer.

"We don't want revenge. We do want justice," Jamar Clark's sister, Javille Burns, told reporters during the Urban League briefing.

Burns said she is praying for the officers involved.

"I don't hate you. I hate what happened to my brother and I hate what happens to a lot of us," she said.

Clark, she added, didn't deserve to be killed, adding, "we want my brother's voice to be heard."

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