An open letter to Mike Freeman:
I watched your entire statement Wednesday, and I am disturbed.
My primary concern is that there was certainly no evidence presented that exonerates the police officers, or should prevent them from even having to endure a trial at all.
You presented no evidence that corroborates what the officers said happened. DNA from Clark could have been found on the gun holster due to his being pushed to the ground, regardless of whether it was grabbed. A lack of abrasions on his wrists does not without a doubt prove that handcuffs were not applied. You are talking about 60 seconds of time here.
My biggest concern is that I don’t understand how the officer and Jamar Clark ended up with Clark on his back and the officer on his back on top of him. What kind of protocol would have an officer “take down” an offender in this way? It leaves the officer at a tremendous disadvantage. It’s odd you did not explain this more.
But, regardless how they ended up that way, what was the officer doing with his hands that he could not defend his gun from Clark below him? And if the holster shifted to his back, and was pressed between their bodies, how is it I am to believe that Clark really had the ability to squeeze his hand between their bodies and access the gun, let alone fire it?
If what we are talking about is Clark touching the holster, was there no alternative to shooting him in the head, such as using bodily force, Tasering him, or simply preventing his hand from accessing the gun? There were two able-bodied officers and one unarmed man. It just does not make sense.
As a nurse I regularly encounter far more intoxicated and belligerent people than Clark appears to be in the videos presented. He is not beating on the ambulance. His feet are planted and then he is knocked down by the police. To be honest, I was expecting a far more unreasonable and aggressive Clark. And I am truly confused how a man who was not armed, not aggressive, not running at the officers, not physically fighting them, and not being apprehended from an active violent situation ended up dead.
I feel sorry for the officers too. I don’t think they aimed to take a life. I am sure that they are suffering for it. But these are supposed to be trained men. You do not go to surgery and then when the surgeon “freezes up” figure he did the best he could at a difficult job when you die on the table.
No, you expect people wielding the scalpel to be professional enough to “do no harm.” You expect them to stay calm and collected in a situation where most people would not stay calm and collected.
And when you send police officers into stressed communities with guns strapped to their hips, you expect that they are trained and professional and that they will “do no harm.”
This is a reasonable expectation any citizen should have. If a police officer is not capable of the stamina it takes to encounter these situations, he should not have a badge, or a gun.
There are many questions here that, it seems to me, call for a trial.
I found the way you spoke of this tragedy — whatever the culpability involved — incredibly cold, lacking in empathy toward those who lost a family member. To be honest, it felt like you were talking about vermin and were troubled by having to spend so much time on the case. Your purpose seemed to be to repeat a story that is getting old — scary, violent black criminal causes well-meaning, innocent policeman to fire.
You don’t seem to have really grasped that a human life was lost. Whatever happened, it was preventable had the police handled it differently or been better trained. It takes 10 years to be a doctor, four to be a nurse; maybe it should take longer than three to four months to become an officer with power to use lethal force. Shouldn’t there be protocol for how police respond to men who resist arrest, and shouldn’t that not involve what the police claimed they did that night?
The fact is, men in uniform shot an unarmed and (judging from the videos) nonaggressive man to death. If a white man were gunned down outside a family barbecue in Edina, I think there would be a trial.
I really am so sad and disappointed. I thought Minneapolis would be an example to the rest of the country of how we can work toward justice for all and stop this kind of senseless loss of life. I am sorry for you, because I do think the burden of this mistake will be on your heart. I think you made this decision due to forces I cannot imagine but also because you do believe that the officers did not mean harm. They would take it all back I’m sure if they could.
But it is only because this man was black that all of the sympathies are going to the individuals who pulled the trigger that ended a life. That is what you need to be thinking about. Not just you, all of us.
Crystal Yakacki lives in Minneapolis.