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Minneapolis mayor asks protesters to end encampment

Amy Forliti
Associated Press

Minneapolis — Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges asked those protesting the shooting of a black man by a city police officer to end their encampment outside a local police precinct, saying Monday that the group’s ongoing campfires are hurting air quality and barricades are blocking access for emergency vehicles.

Protesters have maintained a presence outside the 4th Precinct since Jamar Clark, 24, was shot Nov. 15 in a confrontation with police and died a day later. They’ve vowed to stay until authorities meet their demands, which include the release of video of Clark’s shooting. The incident is being investigated, and one of the officers involved was recently named in a lawsuit for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.

Also Monday, prosecutors said they plan to announce charges against four men who were arrested in connection with a Nov. 23 shooting at the protest site that left five black men injured.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and other local community leaders joined Hodges on Monday in asking for protesters to end their demonstration. Hodges said the campfires are making the air harmful to children and older people in the neighborhood who have respiratory problems. She also said barricades that have closed a portion of the street are impeding access for emergency vehicles and snowplows.

But some protesters plan to stand their ground. Wesley Martin, 18, who was injured in the Nov. 23 shooting, was among roughly two dozen people at the encampment Monday morning. He said city officials can do what they want, but protesters aren’t leaving.

“They can have the street. We can take the sidewalk,” he said. “To be honest, we’re not going nowhere.”

The four men arrested after the shooting of protesters are ages 27, 26, 23 and 21. Three are white and the fourth is Asian.

A search warrant says one of the men called an old high school friend who is a Mankato police officer and confessed to the shootings. The documents say the 23-year-old man told the officer he and some friends went to the protest to livestream it. The altercation broke out when protesters tried to escort the men away from the demonstration.

Clark, 24, died in a confrontation with police who were responding to an assault call in which Clark was a suspect. Police say they arrived to find him interfering with paramedics trying to treat an injured woman. They say a scuffle followed and Clark was shot once in the head.

Some community members have alleged Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, which police have disputed. An attorney for one of the officers says Clark was not handcuffed, was trying to get an officer’s weapon and “had manual control” of the gun when he was shot. No other gun was found at the scene.

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the case, says handcuffs were found at the scene but it isn’t clear whether Clark was cuffed at the time of the shooting. A federal civil rights investigation is also underway.

One of the officers involved was sued just 10 days before Clark’s death, for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.

The lawsuit alleges that Dustin Schwarze, who was working as a Richfield police officer, used a stun gun on a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by Richfield officers in December 2011. It also accuses Schwarze of threatening to beat that passenger and another if they exited the vehicle.

Two other officers and the city of Richfield also are named in the lawsuit, which gained media attention when it was moved from Hennepin County District Court to U.S. District Court last week. Daniel Kurtz, an attorney for Schwarze, said the plaintiff in the 2011 traffic stop had kicked an officer in the face, and the officers used reasonable force to arrest him.