Authorities named the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark as protests roiled the city for a fourth day Wednesday and officers set up barricades at a north Minneapolis police precinct headquarters where hundreds of protesters were still on hand late into the night.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) identified the officers as Mark Ringgenberg, 30, and Dustin Schwarze, 28. Each has seven years policing experience, including the last 13 months with Minneapolis.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the police union, said the shooting happened after Clark allegedly tried to grab one of the officer’s guns when they responded to a paramedic’s 911 call for help early Sunday morning and scuffled with Clark. An autopsy said Clark died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau declined to discuss the assertion at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, but defended her order to break up protesters camped outside the department’s Fourth Precinct for safety reasons.
Tension remained high around the building late into the night, with police releasing pepper spray on at least two occasions to push crowds back. Police were spotted on the building’s roof on and off throughout the evening.
While some in the angry crowd called for a peaceful protest, others went nose to nose with police officers, yelling obscenities.
When an elderly neighbor using a cane came out to plead for quiet at what she said was her bedtime, the crowd turned down the volume. After a couple of protesters threw rocks, others urged them to remain nonviolent.
Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of officers streamed out of a side entrance, stormed a group of protesters huddled outside the station’s main entrance and forced the group to move to the sidewalk. Moments later, a white van pulled up to the station, and several armored officers toting rifles with beanbag rounds and tear gas joined the blockade.
As the showdown between the two sides wore on, officers began dismantling sections of the protesters’ makeshift camp, hauling away blankets, food and books in large plastic bags. Even so, about a dozen rain-soaked tents remained in place alongside the station.
Two black officers stood in front of the police barricade trying to calm the protesters. Some North Side residents, including several members of Clark’s family, pleaded with protesters to remain peaceful.
“The decision was made to remove people who were blocking the entrance and covering the security camera within the vestibule,” Harteau said at the news conference, where she was joined by Mayor Betsy Hodges. “We also received multiple complaints from residents who were unable to gain entry to speak with our officers and investigators.”
Hodges later said on her Facebook page that she “firmly believes in everyone’s right to protest.” She and Harteau “are asking officers to exercise maximum restraint, and are asking protesters to act peacefully.”
On Twitter, someone posted a photo of protesters standing in the mayor’s house, apparently talking to her husband, Gary Cunningham. The tweet said Betsy Hodges was not at home.
Inspector Mike Friestleben said police arrested one man on suspicion of slashing the tires of an unmarked squad car. Two others — one accused of throwing a water bottle at officers outside the precinct, and another wanted for allegedly slugging a state trooper during a protest Monday night that spilled onto Interstate 94 — were briefly “secured” and released, Friestleben said. He added that several officers sustained minor injuries after being hit by water bottles and rocks.
Ringgenberg and Schwarze haven’t had any disciplinary actions since they joined the Minneapolis department, said Kroll, of the police union. They have been on standard paid administrative leave since the shooting. The BCA, which is investigating Clark’s death, met with the officers Tuesday night. The FBI is also conducting its own inquiry into whether the shooting of Clark, who was black, violated any civil rights laws.
Ringgenberg joined the Minneapolis force in September 2014 after 2½ years with the Maple Grove and Osseo police departments. Maple Grove police said Wednesday that Ringgenberg had two exemplary job reviews, received multiple internal commendations and had no disciplinary actions in his personnel file.
Before that, he was a San Diego police officer from July 2008 to March 2012, working part of the time on a special team handling high-crime areas. In San Diego, he was sued in federal court in 2012 for his alleged rough treatment of a suspect resisting arrest. The suit was later dismissed.
Schwarze also became a Minneapolis officer in September 2014. He came from the Richfield Police Department after being on that force for almost six years. He also was a community service officer with the Brooklyn Park Police Department for two years, a Mall of America security guard for a month and a member of the Champlin Police Department’s Explorer program for nearly three years.
In 2009, a federal lawsuit was dismissed that alleged Schwarze forced a man to become a police informant through false arrests and threats.
Clark, of Minneapolis, was shot during what police described as a struggle with officers on the street in the 1600 block of Plymouth Avenue N. about 12:45 a.m. Sunday. Police have said Clark was interfering with paramedics tending to his girlfriend.
Police spokesman John Elder said that police are withholding the identity of the woman and details about her condition because “it is tied into the officer incident.”
The BCA said it has several videos of the shooting, but none show the incident in its entirety.
The 10-year-old son of Tequila Dillon said he witnessed Clark’s death. At first, Dillon said, she didn’t believe her son Ze’Morion, who kept telling her that “the police killed someone.”
But Dillon said she saw Clark after he was shot, a handcuff clasped around one arm. Dillon didn’t see Clark fighting with police, but repeated what her son had told her: “They told the man to back up and he did,” she said. “Something needs to be done. What would justify this?”
Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday evening said some of his staff have viewed video recorded from an ambulance showing the incident between Clark and police. “I’ve not viewed it,” Dayton said.
Dayton said rumors that the National Guard would be called to the scene of ongoing protests at a police station in Minneapolis are false.
“Totally incorrect,” he said, adding: “I’ve not given any consideration, given what I know now, to doing so.”
Pleas for justice
Clark’s family members and their supporters spoke to the news media late Wednesday morning at the Minneapolis Urban League, with sister Javille Burns describing Clark as a man who would give children a dollar whenever they asked or take off his T-shirt to give it to someone who needed it to stay warm.
“Everything that happened to him, he did not deserve,” said Burns, backed by others in her family. “He did not deserve to be shot down like an animal.”
Clark’s relatives have said that despite several convictions for robbery and domestic assault, he had gotten his life back on track. He worked for a trucking company and started picking up shifts at a carwash, they said.
“He was a peaceful person, despite what people say about my brother,” Burns said.
Burns said she holds no ill will toward the officers involved in her brother’s death. “I’m not angry at them. I pray for them. I pray for their souls.”
Lena Gardner, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said at the media gathering that she and fellow activists will stay vocal until they are heard by the authorities.
“We want them to stop killing us,” Gardner said. “We have rung the bells loud. We are not going to take this anymore.”
Interim Urban League President Steven Belton urged witnesses of the shooting to come forward and provide information. Belton vowed that the black community will remain united in the pursuit of justice for Clark and his loved ones.
“We have spelled out specific demands and requests,” he said. “The bottom line is justice.”
“A full and thorough accounting of the facts is a necessary step so that we can get to the bottom of what happened,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken said in a statement Wednesday. “In the meantime, it is incumbent upon all of us, but most especially policymakers and elected officials, to recognize that real inequality persists and to work to dismantle it.”
Star Tribune staff writers Paul Walsh, Mary Lynn Smith and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-4465