Statement on non-indictment of officers who killed Jamar Clark

We are deeply disappointed at today's non-indictment of the police officers who executed Jamar Clark, which sends a clear message that the Minneapolis police may act as judge, jury, and executioner in interactions with unarmed black men.

County Attorney Mike Freeman's account of his refusal to charge officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze relies heavily on the testimony of officers Ringgenberg and Schwarze themselves, taking their testimony as gospel truth; disregards witness testimony, inconsistencies within the police account, and video evidence of police aggression; and uses dog-whistle language to describe the officers' fear of a 24-year-old black man.

The officers' accounts of the interaction with Clark, as quoted by Freeman this morning, are full of dog-whistle language: that he had a "thousand yard stare," that he was "fidgeting," criminalizing the fact that his hands were in his pocket as reasons to use force against him. Despite a lack of conclusive evidence beyond the officers' testimony, Freeman frequently repeated the officers' reports that Clark said he was "ready to die," implying he was asking the officers to shoot him. Further, it is remarkable that although this entire interaction happened with Ringgenberg sitting on top of Jamar Clark, the officers' "de-escalation" response was to shoot him in the head. 

Fidgeting, having one's hands in one's pockets, and staring off into space are not criminal offenses. These are the reasons the officers gave for escalating so violently and immediately upon encountering Jamar Clark. This is the same language used to criminalize young black men in everything from low-level arrests to fatal police shootings all over the country.

Every day in Minneapolis, we see black men arrested for less evidence than was presented today about the officers' deadly actions. The evidence presented today, if it had not involved police officers, would have been enough to send the case to trial for a jury to decide. Freeman's decision not to charge these officers is a political choice that shows that police officers are still above the law, and that their fear of young black men will continue to be an acceptable legal basis for killing them.

Tonight, we will join the community in a non-indictment response gathering at Elliot Park at 6 pm in a renewed call for justice for Jamar Clark and the black community of Minneapolis. We ask that the community keep the Clark family in their thoughts and prayers as they work to recover from this tragic and unnecessary loss of life.

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