MINNEAPOLIS – Authorities will not file federal charges against two Minneapolis Police officers for their role in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark last November.
The decision was announced Wednesday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger at FBI headquarters in Brooklyn Center. Investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Justice have been working for six months to assess whether the shooting of Clark, age 24, was a violation of his civil rights.
Luger says before making the announcement he and FBI Special Agent in Charge for Minnesota and the Dakotas Richard Thornton met with the family of Jamar Clark, expressed their condolences for the loss of their son and brother, and shared a commitment to engaging in dialog and progress the narrative to a point where “a tragedy like this never happens again.”
Sources say Lou Raguse that the federal investigation looked into the history of the two Minneapolis Police officers involved in the shooting, Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28. Investigators looked extensively at both officers’ past dealings with minorities and any statements they may have made regarding those of another race to see if any racism was present.
U.S. Attorney Luger says federal investigators worked long hours, weekends and holidays gathering evidence, looking at how evidence in the case was acquired and analyzed, attempting to determine whether Clark’s civil rights were violated.
“We did not take the officer’s statements at face value,” Luger insisted. Instead, his investigators talked to dozens of witnesses and others to determine whether there was reason to doubt their accounts. A great deal of time was spent on the claim that Clark was handcuffed at the time of the fatal shooting, a claim that both officers denied.
Ultimately, Luger says, witness accounts varied widely, with many of those accounts directly opposing each other. Some said Clark was standing up, some said he was laying down, one witness said Clark’s hands were in front of him, others said behind. Those inconsistences would have made it difficult at trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ringgenberg and Schwarze was guilty of a crime.
Luger also cited lack of DNA evidence on handcuffs recovered at the scene and no bruising found on Clark’s wrists as important factors that were considered.
Clark was shot after struggling with the two officers in the early hours of Sunday, November 15. Riggenberg and Schwarze were responding to reports that Clark had assaulted his girlfriend at a party, and was interfering with paramedics who were trying to give her treatment.
The FBI focused its investigation on whether or not the fatal shooting of Clark violated his civil rights, following a request that was made by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges last November shortly after Clark, 24, was shot and killed by police.
At that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI’s Minneapolis Division began its own independent investigation.
The decision comes a few months after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his decision that the evidence in the case did not support bringing charges against either officer.
At that news conference, Freeman ruled the shooting was justified, based on DNA evidence that in part, revealed Clark’s DNA was found on the butt of Ringgenberg’s gun.