Decision in Clark case expected this week

Protesters at a Justice for Jamar Clark rally
Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis Saturday during a Justice for Jamar Clark rally. Demonstrators want two Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Clark last November to be charged.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is expected to announce this week whether two police officers involved in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark last November will face criminal charges.

On Saturday, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center to call for the prosecution of the officers.

That followed Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau's announcement last week that the department "will not tolerate acts of violence against anyone" following a decision in the Clark case.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer spoke to reporter Brandt Williams about the upcoming decision.

Freeman's decision rests on whether the officers were justified in using deadly force. When is that allowed?

Officers are legally justified in using deadly force if they have a reasonable fear for their lives or the lives of others. So Freeman and his team of prosecutors will be looking to see if the use of force by officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze met that standard.

If Freeman decides to press charges, that does not mean the officers are guilty — that would be left to a jury.

Keep in mind the Hennepin County attorney's office has a conviction rate of more than 90 percent. So, if they decide to press charges, it's because they feel like they can get a conviction.

Will videos from the scene and other evidence also be released?

We'll see. The material should be available. We've made a request to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for any and all video and documents used in the investigation.

The Minneapolis NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have also sued the BCA for the release of the videos — so far to no avail.

Protesters scored a victory when Freeman opted not to use a grand jury. Will they be satisfied if the officers aren't indicted?

It doesn't sound like it. Protesters have been saying that Freeman's decision to forgo the grand jury is a partial victory.

But demonstrators are saying they won't be satisfied until the officers are prosecuted and put behind bars.

How are Minneapolis police preparing?

Last week, the Minneapolis police chief released a video announcing that the department won't tolerate any disruptions or violence, regardless of what the decision is.

Harteau said she is trying to balance the rights of protesters to speak out and demonstrate with public safety. And she says she wants to prevent people who may be trying to get to work from being blocked up in traffic due to protesters shutting down another freeway.

What are the implications of this case beyond what happens to these officers?

If Freeman does issue charges against one or both of the officers, then you'll hear a strong backlash from the police unions — and not just in Minneapolis. They will say the charges will have a chilling effect on officers, that officers will be hesitant to be aggressive or proactive because they fear they'll face criminal charges.

And regardless of Freeman's decision, there will also be continued discussion about the future of using grand juries in officer-involved killings. Some state lawmakers have called for a review of the process.

California has banned the use of grand juries for that purpose. And last session there was a bill introduced that would prohibit police departments from investigating their own officer-involved killings.

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