Jamar Clark: Questions after the case decision

- The day after his pivotal announcement, Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman reiterated his decision not to charge the officers in the shooting death of Jamar Clark was the right one, and touched on a hotly contested factor in the case: the use of deadly force. EVIDENCE - See all videos, documents from investigation

Freeman told MPR he believes “deep in my heart” no other prosecutor would have charged the officers in this case. He stressed how forensic evidence “carried the day" -- how Clark’s DNA was found all over Officer Ringgenberg’s gun, holster and belt.

“The DNA is truth serum,” he told MPR.

Still, an incredulous crowd at the news conference bombarded Freeman with questions once that evidence was released.

BACKSTORY – Minneapolis officers won’t be charged in Jamar Clark shooting


Why the takedown?

During a struggle to place handcuffs on Clark, Officer Mark Ringgenberg utilized a takedown strategy he learned as a member of a high-crime unit in San Diego.

“It is my understanding that is not a technique normally favored by the Minneapolis police,” Freeman told Fox 9 over the phone. “I’m not familiar with every intimate detail of their training, but that's what I’ve been advised.”

Footage from the back of the ambulance shown at Freeman's news conference barely shows Clark and Ringgenberg going down to the ground together. Ringgenberg told Officer Schwarze repeatedly, “He’s got my gun,” feeling the holster move to the small of his back. Ringgenberg then told Schwarze to shoot Clark.

“He was violently slammed from behind by a police officer, that was shocking for me to see that, and a choke hold,” Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said.

The Minneapolis Police Department's policies and procedures state the officers are allowed to use a neck restraint as a non-deadly force option, but not if the subject is passively resisting arrest. Several local police trainers said from what they could tell, the move wasn't a neck restraint, but a move from behind to gain control as fast as possible, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. 

Nate Gove, the executive director for Minnesota's Police Officer Standard and Training, also said there are a number of ways to take someone down, and there's no real "right way" to do it. The key is that it's a surprise, and it’s quick.

Why no Tasers?

The use of deadly force is something Freeman wondered about himself. He confirmed the officers were not equipped with Tasers, but that he doesn’t know why.

Sixty percent of Minneapolis officers are trained to use and issued Tasers – that’s 300 officers. The department is currently considering training all their officers, but reps say cost is a factor.

Ask Minnesota's former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger  whether it would've made a difference in Clark’s case, and here's what he'll tell you:

“Once Jamar Clark had his hands on the officer's gun, a Taser wouldn't have protected the officer's lives. It's similar to why don't they shoot them in the leg? Officers are trained, if you're going to use your gun, you use it to kill, you don't use it to wound.”

How long to investigate?

The U.S. Department of Justice has been independently investigating since Nov. 17. The DOJ refuses to put a time table on how long it takes to complete their work.

“They're in no rush. They have a five-year statute of limitations. It's always DOJ’s policy to get it right, not necessarily get it quick,” Heffelfinger said.

The BCA starts investigating officer-involved shootings, on average, immediately after they’re called. The Minnesota Police Department called morning after the shooting.

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