im Mone / AP Photo

Police arrest suspects in shooting near Jamar Clark protest

Gunmen shot five people near the site of protest against police shooting of unarmed black man

Minneapolis police on Tuesday arrested two suspects in the shooting of five people at a protest against last week's deadly police shooting of Jamar Clark, an unarmed 24-year-old black man.

A 23-year-old white man was arrested in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, police said in a statement. A second suspect, described by police as a 32-year-old Hispanic man, was arrested but released hours later after an investigation revealed he was not at the scene of the crime at the time of the shooting.

Later on Tuesday, two men voluntarily turned themselves into custody. Police described the men as white males aged 26 and 21. They have not yet been arrested, but are being interviewed by police.

Authorities said they were still seeking additional suspects.

"We are sparing no efforts to bring any and all of those responsible to justice," Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a written statement.

No one was seriously injured in the shooting late Monday. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, but several racially disparaging comments had been posted on social media in recent days. One video showed a white man brandishing a gun while claiming to be on his way to the protests. 

Protesters have been conducting a sit-in since the shooting of Clark on Nov. 15, calling for the release of video documenting his death.

Clark's family, in a statement attributed to his brother Eddie Sutton and issued through U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's office on Tuesday, thanked protesters for “the incredible support” they have shown the family.

“But in light of tonight's shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th precinct ended and onto the next step,” the statement said.

At a subsequent news conference Tuesday afternoon, members of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said they were committed to continuing protests at the police department's 4th precinct, which is located a block away from where the shootings took place.

"What happened last night was a planned hate crime and an act of terrorism against activists who have been occupying the 4th Precinct," Black Lives Matter Minneapolis member Misky Noor told the audience. "We reiterate that we have zero faith in this police department's desire to keep our community safe."

A witness to the shooting, Oluchi Omeoga, reported seeing three strangers wearing masks among the protesters. Police initially said they were searching for three white male suspects.

Police Department Spokesman John Elder said officers responded to the latest shooting around 10:40 p.m. and that dozens of officers assisted victims and secure the scene.

Omeoga, who has been participating in protests since last Monday, said the three masked people “weren't supposed to be there.” The three strangers left the protest and a handful of protesters followed them to a street corner, where the masked men pulled out weapons and gunshots rang out, Omeoga said.

Mica Grimm, an organizer with Black Lives Matter who said she arrived on the scene soon after the shooting, said two people were shot in the leg, another in the arm and a fourth in the stomach. None suffered life-threatening injuries.

Authorities have said Clark was shot during a struggle with police after he interfered with paramedics who were trying to assist an assault victim. But some people who said they saw the shooting allege Clark was handcuffed.

Protesters and Clark's family have been calling for investigators to release video of the shooting. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said it has video from the ambulance, a mobile police camera and other sources, but none of it shows the event in its entirety. The agency, which is conducting a state investigation, said releasing the footage now would taint its investigation.

A federal criminal civil rights investigation is also underway to determine whether police intentionally violated Clark's civil rights through the use of excessive force.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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