Minneapolis mayor seeks federal probe into police shooting

The mayor of Minneapolis has requested a federal investigation into a police shooting that has sparked protests since Sunday. 

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Members of Black Lives Matter continue their encampment, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct. More than 50 people were arrested during the second day of protests over the shooting of Jamar Clark by a police officer during an apparent struggle.

The mayor of Minneapolis has requested a federal investigation of an incident Sunday where police shot a black young man, following protests by Black Lives Matter.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said she too would welcome a Department of Justice civil rights investigation. Protestors have demanded the police release video of the incident. Chief Harteau said the officers involved were not wearing body cameras but would not say what other surveillance footage is available.

“Everyone involved needs and deserves the truth and the facts," she told the Associated Press.

Harteau said the two officers involved are on paid leave, which is standard for a situation such as this. 

Police were called shortly after midnight to help with an argument between a man and his girlfriend. Efforts to restrain a man who police said was interfering with paramedics became violent, so an officer fired. Witnesses say the man was handcuffed when he was shot, although police deny this.

The man’s family has identified him as Jamar Clark and said he was shot once above his left eye. Clark was taken off life support on Monday night, a reporter with KARE television said on Twitter. Reuters was unable to confirm the report. Officials had said on Monday the suspect's condition was critical but "unchanged."

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said in a statement that he supports the federal investigation  as well.

A federal investigation was one of the demands by protesters Sunday and Monday. Hundreds of protesters shut down Interstate 94 for two and a half hours Monday night, and 50 people were arrested for refusing to disperse. 

Protesters with Black Lives Matter, who set up eight tents at the police precinct near the shooting site in Minneapolis, approved the request for a federal investigation, but they said they would not move until police released all video footage and the officers’ identity.

“We're still not moving until we get that footage," Michael McDowell, a member of Black Lives Matter, told the AP.

Such video releases run counter to tradition but are becoming more typical as police try to improve transparency, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

"There’s certainly a movement among progressive police departments to be more transparent when it comes to many activities and certainly use of force," University of South Florida criminologist Lorie Fridell told The Christian Science Monitor.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has taken a new, but possibly revolutionary step in the short history of controversial police shootings among minorities. She has chosen to request a federal probe just two days after a controversial police incident. This is unusual, as other cities have sometimes faced weeks of protests and acrimony first, so but the mayor wrote that adding federal authority in addition to the standard state probe will increase “transparency and community confidence,” as Erin Golden reported for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

This is not the first time federal authorities have intervened in police community relations in Minneapolis. After incidents in 2013 and 2014 in which officers were accused of brutality, the Justice Department selected the city for a program designed to rebuild trust between police and communities.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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