Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Wednesday that after months of careful consideration, he’s decided he will not rely on a grand jury to determine whether two Minneapolis police officers should be charged in the shooting death of a 24-year-old black man last November.
Freeman said he will make the charging decision himself in the death of Jamar Clark. He also said he’ll no longer use grand juries to decide any future police shooting cases in Hennepin County.
Authorities have said officers shot Clark during a struggle on Nov. 15. But some people who say they witnessed the shooting have said Clark was handcuffed. Clark died a day later.
Clark’s shooting prompted outcry in the community, and protesters took to the streets and began an encampment at the police precinct on Minneapolis’ north side, which lasted for 18 days before authorities broke it up. Protesters have continued to demand that a grand jury not be used in the case.
Freeman initially said he’d use a grand jury to investigate the officers in Clark’s death. His county has used grand juries to decide fatal police shootings for the last 40 years. But on Wednesday, he said he’s been looking at the issue of grand juries for 16 months and “the accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome.”
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated whether the two officers — Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze — violated state laws. The results of that investigation were sent to Freeman. Last week, Freeman and the BCA made one final request for people to come forward with evidence in the case.
Freeman has said he hopes to have a decision by the end of March.
Meanwhile, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are conducting a federal criminal investigation to determine whether police intentionally violated Clark’s civil rights through excessive force. That’s a high legal standard because an accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to bring federal charges.
The Department of Justice is also reviewing how the city responded to protests after Clark’s death.