MINNEAPOLIS -- Although Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided not to file criminal charges, his comments Wednesday sparked questions about whether the officers involved in Jamar Clark’s death followed the Minneapolis Police Department's ‘Use of Force’ policy.
Freeman told KARE 11 that in the moments before the fatal shooting, officers used a takedown technique not “normally favored” in Minneapolis.
The issue isn’t whether Officer Dustin Schwarze was justified in shooting Clark when he reached for Officer Mark Ringgenberg’s gun as they fought on the ground.
The questions revolve around what happened moments earlier, before the struggle on the ground.
When Freeman played video of the incident, there were cries of outrage from some in the audience who questioned whether Clark was actually resisting arrest when an officer grabbed him around the neck and pulled him to the ground.
“How was that resisting?” one person shouted.
“That was so violent,” said another. “Violent grab.”
Critics question whether the takedown escalated the situation.
The Ambulance video
The silent video was taken from a camera above the rear door of an ambulance which had been dispatched to the scene after Clark allegedly assaulted his girlfriend.
As the woman, identified by reports as RayAnn Hayes, was being loaded into the ambulance, paramedics said Clark was trying to interfere so they called for police back-up.
The video shows Clark apparently banging on the ambulance door. By the time officers Ringgenberg and Schwarze arrive, Clark had backed away from the ambulance door out of the camera’s view.
The two officers are seen walking toward him. Freeman said they ordered him to take his hands out of his pockets, but he refused.
As Clark walks back into the camera’s view his hands still appear to be in his pockets. He is not handcuffed. According to the video, it’s been 19 seconds since the officers arrived.
That’s when Officer Ringgenberg can be seen grabbing Clark from behind, wrestling him to the ground.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Freeman said Officer Mark Ringgenberg “had been trained in his prior work as a police officer in San Diego to take a suspect to the ground when he or she resisted being handcuffed.”
But when KARE 11 questioned Freeman by phone after his news conference, he acknowledged that what’s acceptable in San Diego may not be policy in Minneapolis.
“It is my understanding that is not a technique normally favored by Minneapolis police. OK?” Freeman said. “I’m not familiar with every intimate detail of their training, but that’s what I’ve been advised.”
Minneapolis Use of Force policy
Minneapolis’ Use of Force policy states “the force used shall be consistent with current MPD training.”
When Officer Ringgenberg took Clark to the ground after just 19 seconds of interaction, he put his arm around his neck in what appears to be what the Minneapolis Police Department classifies as a Conscious Neck Restraint.
That use of force is allowed if a “subject is actively resisting.”
But according to Minneapolis policy, neck holds are not permitted against subjects who are “passively resisting.”
MPD defines passive resistance as “…when the subject does not comply with verbal or physical control efforts, yet the subject does not attempt to defeat an officer’s control efforts.”
The video shows Clark’s hands are in his pockets, so he was not complying with the officer’s verbal requests. But he does not appear to be physically resisting when he is taken to the ground in a neck hold.
When KARE 11 asked Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll about the takedown, he said he hadn’t seen enough of the video to make an assessment.
“I don’t know what type of resistance was there. I haven’t read any of the reports,” Kroll said. “I saw such a limited visual of the video I don’t know.”
When asked about the issue during an afternoon news conference, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau wouldn’t say whether she thought the takedown was appropriate.
“That will be something that will be in the review,” Harteau said.
Harteau said the takedown will be part of the internal review to be completed after the on-going federal investigation of Clark’s death is finished.
Meanwhile, Freeman is calling for “enhanced police training” aimed at avoiding deadly police encounters.
During his prepared statement Wednesday, Freeman said, “This case and the other recent police shooting cases around the country reinforce my belief that revised police training and practices must emphasize the de-escalation of disruptive situations by non-lethal means whenever possible.”