BCA releases recordings of interviews in Jamar Clark case

RayAnn Hayes speaks with reporters.
RayAnn Hayes said Monday that the story prosecutors told about her and what happened the night Jamar Clark was shot are a "fabrication.
Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Posted 6:30 a.m.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Tuesday released audio of interviews investigators conducted following the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark.

The 24-year-old African-American man died in November, a day after a confrontation with Minneapolis police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze.

Last week, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he would not charge the two officers, saying Clark tried to grab Ringgenberg's gun. Freeman said Clark had been interfering with an ambulance crew treating a woman initially identified as his girlfriend outside a party in north Minneapolis.

The woman the paramedics were treating was 42-year-old RayAnn Hayes. In an interview with a Minneapolis police homicide investigator the day of the shooting, Hayes made no mention of any romantic involvement with Clark. But she did say Clark was the person who injured her.

Here's their exchange:

Sgt. Twila Villella: "And then as the paramedics are bringing you out of the house, you tell them and point out Jamar is the person that did this to you, right?"

Hayes: "Yeah, OK they put me in the back of the paramedics."

Villella: "The ambulance."

Hayes: "Yeah. This weirdo runs up like, 'that's my mom.' I'm like 'No, I'm not.' I'm like 'No, I'm not, he's the one that did this to me.' "

In that same interview on the day Clark was shot, Hayes suggested she did not know Clark. But at a Minneapolis NAACP news conference Monday, Hayes called Clark a "close friend" and a fun, energetic person. And she denied ever having any romantic relationship with him.

Also on the day of the shooting, Sgt. Twila Villella interviewed one of the paramedics who helped Hayes out of the building. Wesley Thompson said he saw a man later identified as Clark standing nearby crying.

"As we were walking down she said, 'That's him. That's the guy that did this to me," said Thompson in the interview. "And I'm like, 'That's the guy right there?' And she's like, 'Yes."

Thompson said as they prepared to put Hayes in the ambulance, Clark got closer. Thompson got worried and called for police backup.

Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze
Minneapolis police officers Mark Ringgenberg, left, and Dustin Schwarze will not be charged in the shooting death last fall of Jamar Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced last week.
Hennepin County Attorney

"I'm asking for police assistance because we have an assailant for a victim and it's not obvious that she wants to file any assault charges with us, 'cause she hasn't mentioned that at all," said Thompson. "But we know that we are now in close proximity to somebody who's been involved in this and we don't want them there."

The BCA also released audio from its interview on Nov. 17, nearly two days after the shooting, with officer Schwarze, who described a chaotic scene in the seconds before he fired his gun.

Schwarze said Ringgenberg, his partner, was on the ground trying to subdue Clark when Ringgenberg began screaming that Clark had grabbed hold of his gun.

"I thought my partner was going to get shot. I thought I was going to get shot. There were so many things that were running through my head. The only thing I could think of to do was to save our lives and anybody else that was in that immediate area of any danger, so I pulled the trigger. And ... my gun didn't go off."

Schwarze said his weapon didn't fire because the slide had been partially pulled back. So Schwarze fired again.

He told investigators he knew immediately that he'd hit the suspect.

Interviews with Officers Schwarze and Ringgenberg conducted Nov. 17, 2015

The struggle with Clark that Schwarze and Ringgenberg described to investigators is at odds with statements from many witnesses.

A crowd of onlookers had gathered across the street outside the Elks Lodge. It was getting close to closing time and bar customers were heading out for the night.

One of them was Lavell Bible, who was interviewed three days after the shooting. Bible said at first the confrontation between Clark and the officers didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary until one of the officers took Clark to the ground.

"This is north Minneapolis. There's another arrest that's happening. OK, we'll just sit back and see the spectacle right quick and then it just went downhill," said Bible. "When he choke slammed him, that's what made me and a few other people across the street try and get involved. And I made a couple comments like, 'Man they're just doing it to make an example 'cause we're all coming out to show us we don't really mean nothing.'"

Bible said he saw one of the officers put cuffs on Clark before he slammed him to the ground. Yet other witnesses didn't see handcuffs on Clark.

Teto Wilson, who saw the incident from across the street, told MPR News last week that the officers had Clark pinned to the ground, was not resisting them and was in no position to reach for Ringgenberg's gun. Wilson said he could not tell if Clark had been handcuffed when he was shot, as some other witnesses said.

The Minneapolis NAACP said the conflicting accounts of those at the scene point to the need for a new investigation. The civil rights group is calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed.

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