Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Amid unrest, US will investigate Minn. killing

MINNEAPOLIS — Justice Department attorneys opened an investigation Sunday into the killing of a black man that has prompted protests and calls for the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting to be prosecuted.

A key issue during their visit will be whether authorities should release to the public videos of the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark a week ago.

Federal and state authorities have resisted releasing the footage — from an ambulance, mobile police camera, public housing cameras, and people’s cellphones — because they said it doesn’t show the full incident and making the recordings public would compromise their investigations.

The head of the Minneapolis police union has said Clark was shot after reaching for an officer’s gun. Protesters have said they don’t believe that version of events.

Governor Mark Dayton said Saturday that he had asked Clark’s family and representatives of the Black Lives Matter group protesting his death to meet with the federal government lawyers.

“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,” Dayton said after meeting with the family and leaders of the protesters.

Clark’s funeral will be held Wednesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis, said his cousin, Kenya McKnight. A visitation will be held at the church before the funeral, and both will be open to the public, McKnight said.

    ‘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 . . . investigation.’

McKnight added that Clark’s family hopes there are no rallies on the day of the funeral. She said the family “does not want it to be political.”

Dozens of demonstrators huddled around bonfires early Sunday in frigid temperatures at an encampment outside a Minneapolis police station and said they will not disband until their demands are met.

Minneapolis civil rights activist Mel Reeves said the primary goal of the protests is to see the officers involved in the death of Clark prosecuted based on statements of people who say they saw the shooting. He said the officers should face charges and “go through the same procedures that we do. We think they’re guilty, but let the court decide.”

Both officers involved in the shooting, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, have been placed on standard administrative leave.

Police have said the officers were responding to an assault call and found the 24-year-old Clark interfering with paramedics. Authorities say there was a struggle.

Some witnesses say they saw him handcuffed at the time of the shooting, a claim police have disputed.

In Cleveland on Sunday, family members of a 12-year-old black boy who was carrying a pellet gun when he was shot and killed by a white police officer gathered for a vigil a year after his death.

People prayed and observed a moment of silence at the Cudell Recreation Center area where Tamir Rice was shot a year ago. Some 60 people, including his mother and sister, took part in a commemoration there Saturday.

A grand jury is hearing testimony about the shooting. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty says he hasn’t reached any conclusions about charges.

Representative Marcia Fudge says the community awaits answers. The Cleveland Democrat issued a statement Sunday saying the case has taken “far too long.”

In a separate development, police in Chicago are under court order to release by Wednesday a police video of the fatal shooting of a black 17-year-old by a white police officer there.

According to a few people who have viewed it, the video shows Laquan McDonald being struck by 16 bullets, some of them hitting him even after his body had fallen to the ground along a street on this city’s southwest side in October 2014. Some of the bullets, an autopsy shows, entered the back of his body.

A lawyer for McDonald’s family said the video showed him moving away from Officer Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who fired all of the shots, while at least five other officers never fired their weapons.

Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Van Dyke, said his client believed the shooting was justified because he feared for the safety of himself and his colleagues.

McDonald had a knife, the authorities say, and earlier punctured a squad car’s tire with it and refused to drop it.

The officers were approaching him, officials said, after the police got a report that a man with a knife was trying to break into vehicles in a trucking yard.

Van Dyke is on administrative duty pending an inquiry by a team that includes the FBI, the US attorney’s office in Chicago, and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Original report here

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