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Chief: No police policy violation in Jamar Clark's fatal shooting

MINNEAPOLIS -- An internal review has concluded that two Minneapolis officers involved in a black man’s fatal shooting did not violate department policy, the Minneapolis Police chief announced Friday.

Jamar Clark died in November 2015 in a confrontation with two white officers on the city’s north side. The 24-year-old’s death set off weeks of protests, including an 18-day tent encampment around the area’s police precinct. 

Demonstrators gather to protest the decision not to file charges against two police officers for the Nov. 2015 fatal shooting on Jamar Clark on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. WCCO

Chief Janeé Harteau said the department has completed its internal investigation of officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Ringgenberg’s lawyer told CBS Minnesota both will be heading back to patrol duty.

Harteau said she informed the Clark family of the finding prior to the public announcement and expressed her condolences to them.

“As a mother, I can’t imagine such a loss, as no parent should ever have to bury their child,” Harteau said.

Some witnesses said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot. But investigators say the officers tried but failed to handcuff Clark, who was shot in the ensuing struggle. Investigators said Ringgenberg wrestled Clark to the ground but wound up on his back atop Clark and felt Clark’s hand on his weapon. Schwarze then shot Clark in an encounter that lasted barely a minute.

Harteau said the investigation found that both officers believed that Clark either was in possession of the officer’s gun or would be imminently. She said DNA evidence backed up the finding. 

“I have concluded the use of deadly force in the line of duty was necessary to protect officer death or great bodily harm,” Harteau said.

Clark refused to remove his hands from his pockets, Harteau said, and the investigation found the officers didn’t have an opportunity to negotiate or withdraw from the situation.

The local prosecutor and the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis previously declined to file charges. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also conducted an investigation.

Harteau said the shooting has had a “profound impact on the community” and said she would be discussing her findings with community leaders.

A separate U.S. Department of Justice inquiry is underway into the city’s response to the protests. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but one on Nov. 18 included skirmishes between officers and protesters that sparked at least one federal lawsuit.

Eight months later, protests were reignited when police fatally shot another black man, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The gruesome aftermath of the shooting was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend. Prosecutors are still weighing a decision on whether to charge the officer involved.

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