Clark’s family sues two Minneapolis cops; Suit accuses officers of excessive force in shooting death

Published 8:09 am Monday, June 12, 2017

By Libor Jany

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The family of Jamar Clark, a black man whose shooting death by Minneapolis police in 2015 set off weeks of protests, has filed a federal lawsuit against the two officers involved alleging excessive use of force.

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The lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court and names the officers — Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze — as defendants. William Starr, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Clark’s father and trustee of his estate, James Clark, declined to comment.

The five-page lawsuit says the officers violated Clark’s right “to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizure” when they took him to the ground and then shot him. It says that Clark was smaller than both officers and could have been immobilized using nonlethal methods. The lawsuit asks a jury to award damages to Clark’s family.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal, through a spokesperson, declined to discuss the lawsuit Friday afternoon because she hadn’t yet read it and usually doesn’t comment on pending cases.

Separate state and federal investigations after Clark’s death cleared Ringgenberg and Schwarze of any criminal or civil wrongdoing.

The Police Department confirmed Friday that Ringgenberg, who has since been promoted to sergeant, works in the robbery unit out of the Fifth Precinct. Schwarze works in the Second Precinct. The department referred all other questions to the city attorney’s office.

Police union President Lt. Bob Kroll said the city should take the case to trial rather than settle out of court.

“I think we all kind of assumed that this was going to come,” Kroll said late Friday, adding that he hadn’t yet read the lawsuit. “The question is, what is the city going to do with it? Is it going to settle or is it going to try it?”

Clark was shot during a November 2015 confrontation with the two officers, who were responding to a disturbance call at a North Side apartment complex where Clark’s sister lived.

According to the investigation after the shooting, Ringgenberg took Clark to the ground, said he felt Clark’s hand on his gun and told Schwarze, his partner, to shoot. Schwarze told investigators he warned Clark to let go of Ringgenberg’s gun before shooting him.

Clark died the following day after being taken off life support.

His death attracted international attention amid a heated debate about race and policing and prompted an 18-day encampment at a nearby Fourth Precinct police station.