MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis officers removed activists, who had been camping out three days to protest the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, from the front of their 4th Precinct station Wednesday after releasing the names of officers involved in the incident.
A growing crowd of at least 250 people, joining arms to partly surround the station, chanted slogans like "No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police," "Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail" and "Handcuffs, don't shoot."
About 20 officers, some wearing riot gear or dressed in fatigues, watched stoically from behind barricades police had set up. Minneapolis city council member Cam Gordon, who does not represent this ward but was present, said he would not have moved the demonstrators and worried about the potential for violence, while another city council member Lisa Bender said there was "a lot of fear in the crowd."
Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were among those who responded to reports of a domestic assault in north Minneapolis around 12:45 a.m. CT Sunday, according to Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading an outside investigation of the shooting. When authorities arrived, Jamar ONeal Clark, 24, of Minneapolis, who was a suspect in the assault, was interfering with paramedics helping the victim, police said.
Both Ringgenberg and Schwarze have been with the Minneapolis department for 13 months and have been police officers for seven years, state officials said. Police released the two officers’ personnel records, but their races were redacted because the public isn’t entitled to such information under state law.
The officers were interviewed Tuesday night. Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, said Wednesday that Clark was trying to disarm one of the officers when he was shot.
“I hope they expedite the situation and wrap it up,” he said of the investigation. Both officers are on paid administrative leave pending the probe's outcome.
While Kroll said that neither officer had faced disciplinary action while working for the Minneapolis police department, Schwarze was named in two federal lawsuits in 2010 and 2011 while working as an officer with the Richfield, Minn., Police Department. Both lawsuits, which involved an alleged entry into a home without a warrant, were dismissed by a judge with prejudice.
Riggenberg worked as a police officer in San Diego and Maple Grove, Minn., before taking the job in Minneapolis. He was named in a lawsuit while working in San Diego for an alleged mistaken arrest, a case which also was dismissed by a judge.
Hours after the officers' names were released — one the activists' demands — police stormed their encampment and created a human chain between
Police personnel removed tents and other equipment belonging to demonstrators starting about 1:30 p.m. CT, moving them away from the station. SWAT teams dressed in camouflage who jumped out of vans quickly followed the first line of officers.
"We don't die, we multiply!" some protesters chanted as they stood directly in front of the officers. Other protesters were seen shouting and dancing in the street.
Clark died Monday evening, a day after police shot him during the early Sunday struggle. Some community members have alleged that Clark was handcuffed when he was shot.
Police initially said Clark was not handcuffed when he was shot but later said handcuffs were at the scene and that they are trying to determine whether Clark was restrained.
“We’re still examining whether or not they were on Mr. Clark or whether or not they were just (fallen) at the scene. That’s what we’re trying to ascertain,” the state agency's superintendent, Drew Evans, said Tuesday.
Clark has convictions that include aggravated robbery and terroristic threatening but had no weapon that night, investigators later said.
Clark's sister Javille Burns said Wednesday that she wanted to dispel misconceptions about her brother as a criminal. At a Minneapolis Urban League press conference, she spoke of Clark as generous, a man who would routinely hand out dollar bills to neighborhood kids so they could buy candy at the store.
He was a decent person whose life and death will not be forgotten, she said.
"He will not die in vain," Burns said. "His voice will be heard across the country."
Protesters have had three demands since they learned of the shooting:
- Release the names of the officers involved
- Request a federal civil-rights investigation and
- Release any associated video.
Now they and others also want a meeting with federal Justice Department officials, who in the spring had selected the city for a program to rebuild trust between police and the communities they patrol.
The FBI agreed to conduct a civil rights investigation, but on Tuesday state investigators said they would not release video while their probe was ongoing because no dashboard or body camera footage existed. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Tuesday that Clark died from a gunshot wound to the head and classified the death as a homicide.
On Wednesday as police cleared the encampment in front of the 4th Precinct near Sunday's shooting, images from
More police crews also arrived with barricades, apparently to seal off the area.
Some chaos ensued, including a moment when multiple officers chased a demonstrator for unknown reasons. That man slipped on a wet street and fell in the roadway before being taken into custody.
Police Chief Janee Harteau arrived on the scene, and promptly told demonstrators that anyone not leaving of their own volition would be arrested.
The decision to retake the precinct building and remove protesters was a matter of public safety because protesters were blocking the entrance to the precinct building and not allowing the public inside, she later said.
As protesters were shouting down police in the afternoon, Burns drove by the police station, clearly angry after speaking calmly at the Urban League press conference about wanting justice for her brother.
"You're pissing people off," she yelled at the activists. "These officers can't do nothing for you."
Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis criticized the police for coming out in riot gear.
"We don't want another Ferguson," said the former city council member, referring to the St. Louis suburb where a white police officer's shooting last year of an unarmed black man and the decision by a grand jury not to indict the officer led to riots. "They are unleaching something they don't understand. Oh Lord."
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