The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and the ACLU of Minnesota have filed a lawsuit to force state officials to release video footage of Jamar Clark’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Clark, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed on November 15, 2015. While the official story says that officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze (it is still unclear who actually pulled the trigger) shot Clark because he struggled with the officers, witnesses maintain that he was actually handcuffed and on the ground at the time.
His death sparked massive protests throughout the city. Through it all, the police department and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) have refused to release videoes shot by an ambulance camera, a police mobile video station, a building nearby and witnesses cellphones. Per the suit, the state mantains that “releasing [the videos] would impact the integrity of the investigation that’s ongoing currently, and would impact the integrity of the eventual prosecutorial review process that will be pending at the conclusion of our investigation.”
The ACLU and NAACP argue in the suit that withholding the video is emblematic of the deteriorating situation on the ground in Minneapolis:
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. …
Until the community is given some measure of transparency through the release of the videos, the relationship between the community and police department cannot begin to be repaired. One protest organizer stated: “We’re saying if we don’t get justice for Jamar Clark, if those tapes aren’t released, if we don’t get an independent prosecutor, if we don’t get no grand jury, then our ‘or else’ is we’re going back to the Mall of America.” The same organizer also stated that demonstrations “will continue to escalate until the tapes are released.”
The suit specifically names the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Mona Dohman (commissioner of public safety), Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (which is a division of the Departmetn of Public Safety) and Drew Evans (superintendent of criminal apprehension).