Federal investigators will release their report Wednesday on whether two Minneapolis police officers violated the civil rights of Jamar Clark when he was shot to death during an altercation in November, according to sources with knowledge of the case.
Mayor Betsy Hodges asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Clark's death, which triggered massive protests and gained nationwide attention. The report will be made public during an 11 a.m. news conference at the FBI headquarters in Brooklyn Center, sources said.
The officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, are white, and Clark was black. The federal probe likely considered either charges of conspiracy by the two officers to violate Clark's civil rights or deprivation of civil rights under "color of law," that is, a violation of those rights by those specifically working in an official capacity (including a police officer).
A violation of the latter statute that results in a death carries the potential for a multiyear or lifetime prison sentence, or the death penalty.
In late March, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that no state charges would be brought against the officers. He took the nearly unprecedented move of eliminating the long-standing use of a grand jury in police-involved shootings. The Minneapolis Police Department turned the investigation over to the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The FBI led the federal investigation, which was reviewed by the U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota and prosecutors from the Justice Department's civil rights division. A Justice Department spokesman said in April that "experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents are conducting a review of all available evidence in this case in an expeditious and thorough manner."
Fred Bruno, Schwarze's attorney, said he's confident the officer will be vindicated by Wednesday's findings. Bob Sicoli, Ringgenberg's attorney, declined to comment.
Clark, 24, was shot in the head after police said he resisted arrest Nov. 15 near the city's North Side police precinct. The officers were responding to a call from paramedics treating a woman who had been at the same gathering as Clark, and the paramedics said he was attempting to get inside the ambulance to see her. The woman later recanted claims that Clark harmed her that night.
The shooting occurred only 61 seconds after Ringgenberg and Schwarze encountered Clark; Ringgenberg used a takedown not sanctioned by the Police Department to get him to comply with their orders. Some witnesses claimed Clark was handcuffed when Schwarze shot him, and that Freeman ignored testimony from 20 black witnesses that implicated the officers. Freeman asserted that Clark was not handcuffed.
Freeman said Clark's DNA was all over the grip of Ringgenberg's gun. Clark died the day after the shooting. The officers were each about 13 months into their jobs with the department at the time of the confrontation.
Protesters built an encampment at the Fourth Precinct that lasted 18 days until it was dismantled by police.
The Police Department is continuing its internal affairs investigation into Ringgenberg and Schwarze.
Staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.