MINNEAPOLIS: A Minnesota agency is investigating the shooting by a Minneapolis police officer of a black man suspected in an assault, an incident that prompted protests and led to a community forum with the mayor and police chief Sunday.
Accounts from some witnesses that the man was handcuffed when he was shot sparked outrage. Police said their preliminary investigation shows the man was not handcuffed but the investigation is ongoing.
Jason Sole, chair of the Minneapolis NAACP’s criminal justice committee, said many black residents of north Minneapolis are upset.
“We have been saying for a significant amount of time that Minneapolis is one bullet away from Ferguson,” he said referring to the shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last year of black 18-year-old Michael Brown, which sparked nationwide protests. “That bullet was fired last night. We want justice immediately,” Sole told Minnesota Public Radio News.
The shooting happened after police said they were called to north Minneapolis at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday for a report of an assault. When they arrived, the man had returned and was interfering with paramedics who were assisting the victim, police said. Officers tried to calm him, but there was a struggle.
At some point, an officer fired at least once, hitting the man, police said. Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that there was a big crowd at the scene, and bystanders became agitated as police pushed them back. Some witnesses said police used a chemical irritant on the crowd.
Authorities have declined to release the man’s name, but the Minneapolis NAACP cited family members and witnesses in identifying him as Jamar Clark.
Martez McKnight, 22, told The Associated Press that Clark, his uncle, was put on life support after he was taken to a hospital.
“The family is heartbroken and traumatized by the whole event,” McKnight said.
A statement Sunday night from state Rep. Raymond Dehn, who represents the area, said Clark was on life support.
Police and a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County Medical Center said they could not comment on the man’s condition.
Protesters organized by the group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis marched through the streets Sunday afternoon. Some beat drums and others carried banners. The group went to a police precinct, where they banged on the door and demanded to be allowed inside.
Raeisha Williams with the Minneapolis NAACP told the AP protesters plan to stay at the precinct until the names of the officers involved are released.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and police Chief Janee Harteau held a listening session with the community Sunday evening.
Steven Belton, interim president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, was in attendance.
“There is so much anger and pain, and it’s combined with a lack of information,” Belton said.
Harteau said after the meeting that “misinformation” is being spread about the case, but she would not elaborate.
The chief said she has asked the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent investigation.
“We need to know exactly what happened, we need to know the truth,” she said. “Everyone involved needs that and deserves that.”
Two officers are on paid leave, standard practice after such an incident.
Drew Evans, BCA superintendent, said the agency wants to talk to anyone who saw the shooting or might have video of it. When asked about the handcuffs, Evans said there were handcuffs at the scene, but added that authorities are working to determine the exact situation when the man was shot.