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A look at what we know about Minneapolis police shooting

MINNEAPOLIS -- Early Sunday morning, on the city's North Side, a Minneapolis police officer shot a 24-year-old man named Jamar Clark in the head. In the days since, the incident has made national headlines, led to state and federal investigations...

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A member of Black Lives Matter tries to keep protesters back from the police line Wednesday in front of a north Minneapolis police precinct during a protest in response of Sunday’s shooting death of Jamar Clark by police officers in Minneapolis. Reuters

MINNEAPOLIS - Early Sunday morning, on the city’s North Side, a Minneapolis police officer shot a 24-year-old man named Jamar Clark in the head. In the days since, the incident has made national headlines, led to state and federal investigations and inspired a protest that shut down one of the busiest highways in the state, resulting in dozens of arrests.

As of this moment, however, information about the incident itself is scarce, and in some cases, conflicting. Here’s what we know so far - and what we don’t - about what happened:

How did this whole thing start?
Shortly after midnight, two Minneapolis police officers responded to a call for assistance from paramedics reporting a man interfering with their ability to help an assault victim, according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The officers arrived at the scene and got into an altercation with Clark, who was a suspect in the assault. In the course of this encounter, one of the officers shot Clark.

Was Clark handcuffed when the officer shot him?
This is in dispute. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau says he was not. However, some witness accounts say otherwise. The group Black Lives Matter posted a video yesterday morning featuring a woman who says she saw the officer shoot Clark while Clark was in cuffs.

Did Clark die as a result of his wounds?
Yes. Despite some initial reports, Clark did survive the shooting, though he was in extremely critical condition. He died Monday night after he was removed from life support systems.

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What do we know about the officers involved?
The BCA released their names Wednesday morning: Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Both have been police officers for seven years and with the Minneapolis Police Department for a little more than a year.

Was the shooting caught on video?
Yes. The BCA acknowledged that footage of the incident does exist, including from an ambulance, bystanders, a police mobile video camera and a public housing building. None captured the incident in full, so it’s yet to be seen exactly what the video will show.

Why is there no police body camera footage?
The officers weren’t wearing them. The Minneapolis Police Department hasn’t officially rolled out its body camera program yet, though it expects to in early 2016. The department did run a pilot project, but it ended earlier this year.

How have critics responded?
Black Lives Matter and others assembled promptly after reports of the shooting and have since been camped outside the MPD’s 4th Precinct station. On Monday, the group issued a “list of demands,” including that police release footage of the incident, which the protesters believe will confirm Clark was handcuffed during the incident. The group also asked for an independent investigation into the shooting, saying the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension wasn’t capable of being impartial. On Monday night, hundreds of protesters took the streets and blocked westbound traffic on Interstate 94. Police arrested 51 people on various minor charges.

What’s been the response of city officials?
Mayor Betsy Hodges announced the city had asked the federal Department of Justice for a federal civil rights investigation, which will occur in concurrence with the state’s BCA investigation.

What will be the federal role?
The federal Justice Department agreed to take the case. It make decisions independent from the state, says Mark Osler, former assistant U.S. attorney. The department also brings investigators with national experience in these types of cases, which the state doesn’t have. If the department finds criminal wrongdoing, the officers could face federal charges.

Was this Jamar Clark’s first encounter with police?
No. Clark has faced several criminal charges in the past. He was convicted of first-degree aggravated robbery in 2010 and terroristic threats-reckless disregard risk earlier this year, both felonies. Clark’s family has told reporters that he was en route to putting his life back together.

How often do Minnesota police officers fatally shoot suspects?
Between 1994 and 2014, 115 people died in police shootings, according to data reported by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (though the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently pointed out that this dataset may be incomplete). The deadliest years over that 20-year period were 2009 and 2010, with 11 officer-related shootings each year. In 2014, seven people died in police shootings, according to the data.

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So why is this one getting so much more attention?
Partly due to the circumstances, but also because of the response from groups like Black Lives Matter. Many community leaders have likened the event to others around the country involving black victims, such as the case in Ferguson, Mo., in which a white officer shot an unarmed black man.

MinnPost.com is a Twin Cities-based online newspaper.

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