Justice Dept. asked to investigate after Minneapolis cops shoot unarmed black man
Rear view of policeman in uniform standing against car (Shutterstock)

By Ciara McCarthy, The Guardian

Mayor Betsy Hodges made request to open civil rights investigation into killing of Jamar Clark, who activists say was unarmed and in handcuffs when shot

The mayor of Minneapolis has asked the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into the police shooting of Jamar Clark, a young black man whose potentially fatal injuries have led to protests.

Mayor Betsy Hodges made the request following a day of demonstrations by activists who say that Clark, 24, was unarmed and in handcuffs when a police officer shot him in the head. Protesters made a series of demands including an independent federal inquiry.

“We need all the tools we have available,” Hodges said at a press conference on Monday evening. Stressing that she supported the decision and that it should not be seen as an admission of any wrongdoing, Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau said: “Everyone involved needs and deserves the truth and the facts.”

A DoJ spokesperson could not immediately confirm a Minnesota public radio report that the department had received the request and was reviewing it. Hodges said the letter was also sent to Andrew Luger, the US attorney for the district of Minnesota, and that Minnesota governor Mark Dayton agreed with her decision to make the request.

Harteau declined to release any additional information about Sunday’s shooting, citing an ongoing investigation of the incident by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). “I have great confidence in the abilities and independence of the BCA,” Hodges said.

Clark was shot early on Sunday morning after allegedly struggling with officers. Police said that after assaulting someone minutes earlier, he returned to the scene, “confronting paramedics and disrupting their ability to render aid” to the assault victim.

The 24-year-old was taken to hospital, and his condition has not been officially released. His father James Hill told reporters on Monday that “his brain is dead so we’re just waiting to pull the plug”. NAACP activists said earlier that Clark was “shot and killed”.

Some witnesses and campaigners claim that Clark’s hands were cuffed when he was shot, but police have said he was not placed in handcuffs. Two officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

Harteau would not confirm that the officers who shot Clark were not wearing body cameras and that Clark was unarmed, saying only that that information was “part of the investigation”. The results of the BCA investigation will be reviewed by Hennepin County officials.

Officials declined to release the names of the officers who shot Clark, but said that investigators would meet with the officers in the coming days. Mona Dohman, the commissioner of the state’s department of public safety, said investigators had appointments scheduled with two officers and that their names would not be released until after those meetings took place. Dohman declined to say when the meetings were scheduled for.

Watch a report on the shooting, as aired on WCCO-TV, below.