ACLU, NAACP file lawsuit to release video of Jamar Clark shooting

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and Minneapolis NAACP are filing a lawsuit against the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to force the release of video footage from the Nov. 15 shooting death of Jamar Clark. The groups say the public has a right to access the video footage and BCA’s refusal to release it is a violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Clark, 24, was shot by Minneapolis police at 12:45 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15 outside of an apartment on the 1600 block of Plymouth Avenue N. Clark died Monday, Nov. 16 after he was removed from life support. Witnesses have claimed Clark was in handcuffs and unarmed at the time of the shooting, but Minneapolis police said preliminary reports indicate Clark was not handcuffed.

At a November news conference, BCA superintendent Drew Evans confirmed his investigators have several videos of the incident, but none capture the entirety of what happened, and there is no police body camera footage or squad car dash cam footage. Evans said the videos will not be released.

“We don’t want to taint the interviews that may be ongoing with witnesses in this case,” Evans said. "And by having video public, there is the potential for tainting portions of the investigation.”

The BCA identified the officers involved in the shooting as Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Both officers had been with the MPD for 13 months prior to the shooting and have been police officers for 7 years.

Protesters and outraged community members occupied the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct for 18 days in November and December. The release of video footage was one of 5 key demands of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis activists.

Demands of Black Lives Matter

1. Footage from the incident
2. An independent organization to investigate
3. Media to cover witness testimony, not just police point of view
4. Community oversight with “full disciplinary power”
5. Officers to live in the communities they serve

Why should the videos be released to the public?

According to the complaint filed by the ACLU and NAACP:

“The police killing of Jamar Clark laid bare the broken relationship that exists between the Minneapolis Police Department and the community it serves, particularly its relationship with people and communities of color in Minneapolis. Secrecy and lack of transparency has served to deepen the chasm between police and the community by reinforcing the community’s fear that police will not be held accountable for their acts of misconduct.

“The withheld videos may shed significant light on the numerous witness accounts of the incident that state that Clark was restrained when he was shot to death by the police. The public has heard vastly divergent accounts about what occurred—that Clark was handcuffed or otherwise restrained when he was shot in the head and that Clark had his hand on an officer’s weapon when he was shot. These divergent accounts have served to further divide the community. The withheld Videos may help the community to come to a collective understanding about what occurred the night that Jamar Clark was killed.”

Alleged double standard

On Nov. 23, investigators allowed Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to view the videos of the shooting. The governor concluded that the video doesn’t confirm the allegations of witnesses or police.

“I will urge that the tapes be provided to the family and released to the public as soon as doing so will not jeopardize the Department of Justice's investigation,” Gov. Dayton said.

In their lawsuit, the ACLU and NAACP said “Gov. Dayton’s right to view the videos is no greater than the public’s right to view the videos.”

“Despite the BCA’s statement that the Videos would not be released to the public, upon information and belief, the BCA released the Video to Governor Dayton on November 23, 2015. Governor Dayton stated that he had seen video from the ambulance camera and that it did not confirm either side’s allegations of what happened. 33. On information and belief, Governor Dayton is not “an employee or an elected or appointed official of a political subdivision or law enforcement agency who is licensed by the [Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training], charged with the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of the general criminal laws of the state and who has the full power of arrest.” Nor is Governor Dayton an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Minnesota; nor does Governor Dayton have any constitutional or statutory authority to interfere with or become involved in a BCA investigation. Thus, Governor Dayton’s right to view the Videos is no greater than the public’s right to view the Videos.”

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