Minneapolis mayor requests federal investigation into police shooting

Mass protests pressure city to ask for independent probe into shooting that critically injured black man

The mayor of Minneapolis announced that she had requested a federal civil rights investigation into the police shooting of a black man, who witnesses said was shot while in custody. The announcement followed a series of protest actions by civil rights activists, including a Black Lives Matter sit-in at a police station.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said that although she has confidence in local police and state investigators, the city should use "all the tools we have available to us."

Community members had demanded that Minneapolis police identify the officer who shot 24-year-old Jamar Clark and release video of the incident.

The man was shot on a north Minneapolis street early Sunday while allegedly hindering emergency workers from aiding the victim he was suspected of assaulting, The Minneapolis Tribune reported.

Witnesses to the shooting just after midnight Sunday said the man was handcuffed when he was shot, which led to protests and an overnight encampment outside a police precinct on the city's north side.

Family members said Clark is on life support in a hospital. Police said their preliminary investigation showed the man was not handcuffed at the time of the shooting, but the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.

"Each and every one of us out here would be held accountable if we murdered someone," said Bettie Smith, whose son Quincy Smith died in a 2008 confrontation with Minneapolis police. "Unless the community steps up to help us out, it will continue," Smith said at a news conference outside the north Minneapolis police precinct. 

About 150 people assembled on Sunday afternoon at the scene of the shooting to demonstrate, and some protesters camped out at the police station overnight. By Monday evening, more than 50 protestors had been arrested after hundreds of people blocked northbound traffic on Interstate 94 as the camp-in at the police station continued.

Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Schweigart says 43 adults and 8 juveniles who refused multiple orders to disperse were arrested on Monday evening.

She says those being arrested were cooperative and no use of force was required.

Schweigart says the northbound lanes of the highway were closed for about two and a half hours.

Mayor Hodges and police Chief Janee Harteau held a listening session with the community Sunday evening, where some community members shouted in anger.

Harteau said after the meeting that "misinformation" is being spread about the case, but she would not elaborate.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis held a news conference on Monday, demanding answers, police accountability and an independent investigation.

Members of the civil rights movement said they occupied the entry to a police precinct in north Minneapolis and don't plan to leave until video of the shooting and the name of the officer who pulled the trigger are released. They also demanded a federal investigation.

"We are not here for show and tell. We are here for answers," community activist John Martin said on Monday. "We are going to stay here and find out what happened."

Jason Sole, chair of the Minneapolis NAACP's criminal justice committee, said Sunday that many black residents of north Minneapolis are upset.

"We have been saying for a significant amount of time that Minneapolis is one bullet away from Ferguson," he said, referring to the police shooting last year in the St. Louis suburb that prompted nationwide protests. "That bullet was fired last night. We want justice immediately," Sole told Minnesota Public Radio News.

Martez McKnight, 22, told The Associated Press that Clark is his uncle: "The family is heartbroken and traumatized by the whole event," he said.

Two officers are on paid leave, standard practice after such an incident. It wasn't immediately clear if they were wearing body cameras. The city has been testing cameras with a small number of officers ahead of an expected wider rollout next year.

Clark has had contact with police in the past.

Earlier this year, he was convicted of a felony count of terroristic threats and sentenced to 15 months in prison, but his sentence was stayed for five years and he was out on probation. In exchange for that guilty plea, a misdemeanor domestic assault charge and charges of damage to property were dismissed.

He was also convicted of aggravated robbery, a felony, in 2010 and convicted of a petty misdemeanor count of possessing a small amount of marijuana in 2009

The protests in Minneapolis are just the latest expression of tension between the department and the city's minority residents.

Outrage and a civil lawsuit followed the 2013 death of 22-year-old Terrance Franklin, a burglary suspect whom police pursued and shot in a Minneapolis basement. A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved.

In 2014, a prominent civil rights activist, Al Flowers, complained of being the victim of brutality when police served a warrant on a relative at his home. Police say Flowers instigated their aggression.

The rocky relations have led to discussions between police and minorities and the creation of task forces to address concerns. A special civilian review authority was formed after the death of an elderly black couple during a botched drug raid decades ago.

This spring, Minneapolis was selected for a federal Justice Department program to rebuild trust between police and the communities they patrol.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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