Dayton: Ambulance video inconclusive in Jamar Clark shooting

A call to release video tape
Protesters have been demanding to see video footage collected by investigators probing what happened during the Nov. 15 confrontation between Jamar Clark and police officers.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Updated 3:30 p.m. | Posted 12:48 p.m.

Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters Monday that he's seen video from the ambulance camera running during the Jamar Clark shooting and that it does not confirm either side's allegations of what happened.

Dayton said he viewed the tape lasting less than a minute and shared his opinion with Clark's family over the weekend that it was inconclusive.

"The camera's looking out the back door of the ambulance. It's for the purpose of photographing what occurred in the back of the ambulance. There's just a very brief fragment where Mr. Clark and one of the officers encounter each other, then they disappear from sight," he said.

"There's no other view of them until one of the officers — and there's no audio — but it would appear after the shot was fired one of the officers comes back into the camera view," Dayton added.

Protesters have been demanding to see ambulance video and other footage collected by state investigators probing what happened during the Nov. 15 confrontation between Clark and police officers.

The head of the Minneapolis police union says Clark was shot after going for an officer's gun and was not handcuffed during the confrontation. However, witnesses said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot.

When asked why he was able to view the tape, Dayton said he is the governor and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reports to him.

"In a situation like that, where we're teetering on the brink of a very, very volatile situation, then I want to know everything I possibly can and need to know to make the best informed decision I can to protect public safety. And that's what I did," Dayton said.

State investigators have said that none of the footage they've collected shows the entire incident. They've said they intend to release videos once the probe is completed and have warned that early release of the video could taint the investigation.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys are in the Twin Cities today as part of federal a civil rights investigation into the shooting of Clark, an African-American. The lawyers are expected to discuss the possible release of video.

Dayton said it is ultimately his decision whether to release the tape held by the BCA. He strongly defended his access to the tape and dismissed any suggestion that his viewing could taint the investigation.

But Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, said she thinks Dayton went too far in discussing the video he viewed.

"If the whole reason that the tape is not being released to the public is because it would impede the investigation or cause people to draw conclusions one way or the other, the governor's statement could be perceived in a similar way, as potentially shaping public opinion surrounding this issue," said Levy-Pounds, who's called for the release of all tapes held by authorities.

The public is demanding justice and an explanation of what happened and Dayton's comments don't help address those concerns, she added.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said releasing evidence in a piecemeal fashion does a disservice to any investigation.

"There are multiple, perhaps multiple sources for video evidence," he said. "Therefore, releasing an opinion about one or more of those pieces may be premature."

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