By Jack Grauer
Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at the intersection of Broad Street and Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia this evening and marched south down Broad in solidarity with activists nationwide over the recent shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police, Laquan McDonald’s murder by Chicago police last year, and others.
A lawsuit filed yesterday by Nathanial Hanson in federal court adds to prior misconduct allegations against Dustin Schwarze, one of two Minneapolis police officers implicated in the recent murder of 24-year-old Jamar Clark: an incident that has spurred a week of protests and violence.
Minneapolis Police officers Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg responded to a Nov. 15 call regarding a domestic disturbance. One of the two officers fatally shot Jamar Clark. Police claim Clark was interfering with paramedics tending to an injured woman.
The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) claims Clark had grabbed one of the officer’s guns when the other fired at his head. Eyewitness accounts diverge significantly from MPD’s, holding instead that Clark was handcuffed at the time of his death.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has taken possession of footage depicting the incident from police and public housing cameras, cellphones and other sources. Authorities have refused to release this footage, citing a pending evidence review.
Officials with the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI’s Minneapolis Division and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have flown to Minneapolis and initiated an investigation.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton reviewed footage from a camera inside the ambulance on site when the shooting occurred.
Dayton said the footage depicts a brief encounter between Clark and one of the officers, and that one of the officers appears a second time later in the video. The governor refused to comment with regard to whether the footage shows struggle between Clark and the officers. Clark’s family was not permitted to view the footage.
Public demand that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension release this footage took form as an encamped, ongoing protest with upward of 400 attendees.
The confrontation, much of which occurred near the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th District station, has become violent several times.
According to Minneapolis police, protesters have thrown rocks and homemade explosives at officers and the station. A group of suspected white supremacists more recently opened fire on protesters and wounded five of them. The MPD has arrested three white male suspects in conjunction with the shooting.
The federal investigation will extend to police and civilian conduct during the week of protests that followed Clark’s death.
This isn’t the first time either involved officer has faced misconduct allegations.
A 2009 lawsuit filed in Minnesota court alleges that Officer Schwarze and other officers attempted to coerce Billy McCoy to become a police informant. When McCoy notified the officers’ superiors, Schwarze and the other officers began what the complaint calls
“a malicious campaign of threats, harassment, random searches… falsified police reports… [The officers] conspired with a private citizen in a continuous and unbroken sequence of unlawful searches, intimidation and phone threats lasting for over three years.”
A judge dismissed this case in April of 2011 after a settlement conference.
More recent records show that an additional lawsuit against Officer Schwarze, filed earlier this week in a Minnesota court, levels counts of false arrest and excessive force against him. According to that case file, Schwarze and other officers pulled Natanial Hanson and a passenger over to administer a sobriety test to Hanson in December of 2011.
Schwarze then allegedly removed the cartridge from his Taser and “drive stunned” Hanson three times, for an interval of about two seconds each time, and drive stunned a fellow officer accidentally as well.
The term “drive stun” refers to the practice of removing the projectile cartridge from a Taser and applying the instrument’s charged prongs to a person directly.
Drive stuns don’t incapacitate, but do cause tremendous pain. Law enforcement refers to this type of stun as a “pain compliance technique,” designed for use in “situations where the officer gives an order and the suspect refuses to comply,” according to Tim Miller of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Judge Michael J. Davis, who was originally assigned to hear this case, recused himself of that responsibility this afternoon.