Advocates for Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot by police in 2015, want Minneapolis to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Clark’s family — the same amount awarded to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
About two dozen people gathered at a news conference organized by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, calling for an equal settlement. A petition circulated by attendees said neither Clark nor Damond did anything that warranted deadly police force.
Clark, 24, was fatally shot in November 2015 during a struggle with Minneapolis police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze on the city’s North Side, sparking weeks of protest. Clark was unarmed.
According to the investigation, Ringgenberg felt Clark’s hand on his gun after he took him to the ground and told Schwarze, his partner, to shoot. Schwarze told investigators he warned Clark to let go of Ringgenberg’s gun before shooting him.
Clark died the following day after being taken off life support. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman chose not to bring charges against the officers in 2016.
In the Damond case, then-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor fatally shot her in the alley behind her home after she called 911 about a possible sexual assault in July 2017. Damond, 40, died at the scene. She was not armed.
Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter last month.
On Monday night, speakers outside the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis frequently highlighted that the Damond case involved a white victim and a black officer. Clark was black; the two officers were white. The group gathered more than 460 signatures calling for equal settlements.
“What’s going on today that officers can kill a black man and there’s nothing done? A black man kills a white woman and there is something done,” said James Clark, Jamar’s father. “What’s going on? It just don’t make sense. He didn’t deserve that. It wasn’t that serious for that officer to pull out his gun and shoot him.”
Attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, who led many of the protests following Clark’s death, said the two cases illustrate a culture in the Police Department that “shoots first and asks questions later.”
“We believe the facts of the case are very similar, in that you had an unarmed individual in both cases who had an encounter with law enforcement and who wound up dead,” Levy Armstrong said.
The $20 million settlement with Damond’s family was the largest in state history. The Minneapolis City Council rejected a settlement with Clark’s family on the same day it approved the Damond settlement.
“While no amount of money can bring back Jamar, we feel the city of Minneapolis should consider the value of any stolen life by police the same,” said Sarah Kuhnen with Justice for Justine, a group that advocated for Damond after her death. “Regardless of color of their skin, where they live, or the outcome of the verdict.”