Minnesota is Illegally Withholding Video of Police Shooting Unarmed, Handcuffed Man in the Head: Report


Rose Bouboushian | Courthouse News Service

(CN) – Minnesota is illegally withholding November 2015 video footage of Minneapolis police fatally shooting Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, the ACLU and NAACP claim in court.

Minneapolis police reportedly responded to a disturbance call across the street from the local Elks fraternal lodge at about 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2015. Soon after – according to a neighbor, Nekelia Sharp – Jamar Clark and his girlfriend got into an argument, the civil rights groups say.

Though Sharp said “Clark tried to talk to his girlfriend,” the police claim he “was confronting the paramedics and disrupting their ability to treat [her],” according to a Feb. 9 lawsuit filed by Minnesota’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Minneapolis’ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Numerous witnesses reportedly said that, “[u]pon arriving at the scene, the police placed [Clark] in handcuffs and slammed him to the ground.”

Clark “was just laying there,” one witness, Teto Wilson, allegedly told the NAACP. “He was not resisting arrest.”

Yet, while “two officers were surrounding [Clark] on the ground, an officer maneuvered his body around to shield [Clark]’s body, and I heard the shot go off,” Wilson allegedly reported.

Clark died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the complaint.

The named defendants in the ACLU and NAACP’s lawsuit are the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Commissioner Ramona Dohman, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Superintendent Andrew Evans. The complaint was filed in Ramsey County, Minn.

The civil rights groups say police have not made video of the shooting public.

“Despite…multiple requests from plaintiffs and the public, state officials have refused to disclose video footage that could potentially shed light on the incident,” the complaint states.

According to the ACLU and NAACP, the head of the Minneapolis police union, who did not view any of the videos, claimed that Clark was shot after he had tried to grab one of the officer’s guns.

The day of Clark’s death, hundreds of protesters allegedly marched several blocks from the scene of the shooting to police headquarters, “hoisted a banner over the entrance and set up a tent, saying they would stay until their demands were met” – including release of the video.

“Later that night, protesters blocked the westbound lanes of Interstate 94” – 42 of whom were arrested, and at least 33 were charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, the civil rights groups say.

The next day, Evans said, “Releasing [the videos] would impact the integrity of the investigation” and of the “eventual prosecutorial review process,” according to the complaint.

Protesters at the precinct on Nov. 18, 2015 – including the son of Congressman Keith Ellison – were “sprayed with pepper spray, shot with rubber bullets and marker rounds,” and “crushed when police used bicycles to move” them when there was no room, the complaint states.

In addition, “Two women have sued the Minneapolis Police Department alleging that they were beaten by police in an alley that night,” the lawsuit continues.

Five days later, five protesters were shot near the police station, “allegedly by individuals who have espoused white supremacist rhetoric in the past,” according to the civil rights groups.

The ACLU and NAACP say that “the relationship between the community and police department cannot begin to be repaired” until the videos of Clark’s shooting are released.

They claim the refusal to release the videos violates the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

The civil rights groups are represented by Catherine Ahlin-Halverson with Maslon LLP in Minneapolis.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is “fully committed to a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation” of Clark’s death.

“Releasing any evidence, including video, prior to the completed investigation and prosecutorial review, is detrimental to the case,” Gordon wrote in an email.

“While we cannot comment specifically about pending litigation, the [Bureau] will follow the law and release the videos and all other public data once the case is closed as we would in any other investigation,” Gordon added.

“This protects the rights of everyone involved.

Published by Courthouse News Service.