Officials summoned in suit over Minneapolis police shooting

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Demonstrators march down Freemont Avenue North in Minneapolis on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, to protest the 2015 police killing of Jamar Clark.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated 5:32 p.m. | Posted 12:04 p.m.

A federal judge summoned Minneapolis city leaders to court on Wednesday after learning that the city had rejected an offer to settle a lawsuit over the killing of a black man by police in 2015.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said he got an email saying that the City Council rejected an offer to settle the case over the death of Jamar Clark on Friday — the same day the city made public that it agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit over the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk, who also went by Justine Damond.

"The court wants a full understanding of where we are, where we're going in this matter," Davis said.

The two deaths unfolded under different circumstances.

Ruszczyk, who was white, was shot by a police officer when she approached his squad car minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape in the alley behind her home. That officer was convicted of murder.

Irma Burns in her home.
"No mother should have to go through this. Pain? You can't imagine the pain", said Irma Burns, the birth mother of Jamar Clark, in her Minneapolis home.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News 2016

The civil suit at issue now involves the 24-year-old Clark, who was shot in the head after a struggle with two officers. The county attorney declined to charge the officers, saying an investigation found Clark was shot after trying to get an officer's gun.

William Starr, an attorney for Clark's father, James Clark, said in court that the settlement offer in his case was "nominal." He said he now wants a "transformative settlement" — echoing language used to describe the Ruszczyk settlement — and the case could go to trial.

Davis' order called Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council President Lisa Bender, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and City Attorney Susan Segal to court for the status conference.

Frey last week cited the murder conviction for former officer Mohamed Noor, along with Noor's failure to identify a threat before using deadly force, as reasons for the large payout to Ruszczyk's family.

In another development in the Clark civil suit, the parties agreed to drop Dustin Schwarze as a defendant, even though he's the officer who shot and killed Clark. That leaves Schwarze's partner Mark Ringgenberg as the defendant. Video shows Ringgenberg throwing Clark to the ground. Ringgenberg had claimed that during a struggle, Clark grabbed his gun.

Starr said, according to their own investigator, that Schwarze's actions were "not unreasonable."

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