MINNEAPOLIS — The mayor of Minneapolis on Monday asked for a federal civil rights investigation into the weekend shooting of a black man by a police officer during an apparent struggle.
Mayor Betsy Hodges said she wrote to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and to the U.S. attorney for Minnesota seeking the investigation in the “interest of transparency and community confidence.” The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is already conducting a criminal investigation, but Hodges said the city needs “all the tools we have available to us.”
Authorities have released few details about the shooting, which has angered some community members after witnesses said the man was handcuffed when he was shot. Police said their initial information showed the man, a suspect in an assault, was not handcuffed. He was taken to a hospital after the shooting, and his family says he is on life support.
The incident sparked protests Sunday and an overnight encampment at the north Minneapolis police precinct near the site of the shooting. Community members and activists called for a federal investigation, as well as for authorities to release video of the incident and the officer’s identity.
Protests continued Monday, with a few hundred people gathering at an evening rally outside the same precinct, beating a drum and chanting for justice. At least eight tents were set up outside, and a handful of protesters were sitting behind glass doors in the foyer, including one who was knitting.
“We’re still not moving until we get that footage,” said Michael McDowell, a member of Black Lives Matter.
Later, hundreds of demonstrators blocked Interstate 94, shutting down the northbound lanes for about two and a half hours. State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Schweigart said 43 adults and 8 juveniles who refused multiple orders to disperse were arrested.
Two officers are on paid leave, standard practice after such an incident. Police Chief Janee Harteau said the officers were not wearing body cameras, but declined to say whether squad car or surveillance video was available, citing the ongoing investigation.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, called the civil rights request a step in the right direction, “given that we do not trust Minnesota law enforcement officials to hold themselves accountable.”
Police said they were called to north Minneapolis around 12:45 a.m. Sunday following a report of an assault. When they arrived, a man was interfering with paramedics helping 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.
Authorities have not released the man’s name, but family members identified him as Jamar Clark, 24, and said he was on life support. His father, James Hill, told The Associated Press that his son suffered a single gunshot wound over his left eye.
Ramona Dohman, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said the officers’ identities would be released after investigators interview them. She declined to say how long the investigation could take.
Harteau said she welcomed a federal investigation.
“Everyone involved needs and deserves the truth and the facts,” she said.
Gov. Mark Dayton also issued a statement saying he supported the request for a federal probe.
Authorities said a window at the precinct was broken amid the protests and two police vehicles were damaged, including a marked squad car in which all the windows and a camera were broken, and an expletive was scratched into the hood. One person was arrested in connection with damage to an unmarked police car.
The protests are just the latest expression of tension between the department and minorities in the city.
Outrage and a civil lawsuit followed the 2013 death of 22-year-old Terrance Franklin, a burglary suspect whom police pursued and shot in a Minneapolis basement. A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved.
In 2014, prominent civil rights activist Al Flowers complained of being the victim of brutality when police served a warrant on a relative at his home. Police say Flowers instigated their aggression.
The rocky relations have led to discussions between police and minorities and the creation of task forces designed to quell concerns. This spring, Minneapolis was selected for a federal Justice Department program to rebuild trust between police and the communities they patrol.
KG Wilson, a peace activist who retired weeks ago after 11 years of building relationships between the community and the police department, said he’s hurt by the reaction he is seeing and disagrees with the protests.
“I hate that this is going on right now. My heart is so crushed. I have not stopped crying,” he said, adding that some protesters are looking for an excuse to be angry. “I think everything is being gone about in the wrong way. … Peace is always the way. You can’t bring peace with aggression.”