Statement by Minneapolis Urban League Interim President and CEO Steven Belton
Made November 18, 2015 at a Community Press Conference Concerning the Shooting of Jamar Clark
Separate but unequal narratives have emerged from the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark early this past Sunday morning. One is the official story and the other is the community narrative.
The official narrative has been inconsistent and changed in significant ways over time. It began with an announcement from city officials that police responding to a domestic violence call received information that the alleged assailant, Mr. Clark, was confronting paramedics who were on the scene and interfering with their ability to administer medical aid.
The police became involved in an altercation with Mr. Clark, who was not handcuffed, they said, and at some point an officer discharged his weapon and Mr. Clark was shot.
Notably, the police and public officials consistently have stated they cannot comment on the case because it is under investigation-except they stated their belief that Mr. Clark was not cuffed and aggressive, and by failing to state immediately that he was unarmed, they have invited the assumption that the shooting was justified.
The media also have contributed to this official narrative with reports of Mr. Clark’s previous involvement with the judicial system and innuendo about possible affiliation with criminal organizations.
Now, of course, the police have acknowledged Mr. Clark was unarmed and there were handcuffs at the scene. But, they refuse to state whether he was cuffed or restrained at the time he was shot, despite the fact they are in possession of multiple video recordings that could answer definitively this question.
In contrast, the community narrative has been remarkably consistent since the evening of the fatal event. Multiple members of this community who were present and witnessed the shooting have stated the following:
Mr. Clark was unarmed
He did not resist arrest
He was on the ground, physically restrained by two officers and an EMT
And, he was handcuffed
The convergence of these two narratives demands a response-an official response and reconciliation. And, the absence of official response breeds anger, frustration and contempt for authority.
With respect, we are asking for the following:
A meeting with the us Dept. of Justice to elicit an explanation of why the mediation agreement between the DOJ and the City of Minneapolis Police Department in 2003 was unilaterally abandoned by the city without penalty or consequence.
Release today the names and service records of the police officers who were involved in the shooting. It is blatantly unfair that police officers are allowed the privilege of anonymity after a fatal shooting when ordinary citizens who allegedly commit far lesser crimes are identified and subjected to public scrutiny immediately.
Release the videos in the possession of the BCA. The need for transparency in this context far outweighs the speculative concern about possibly influencing witness recollection and testimony. People saw what they saw.
And, finally, stop peacemealing information to support a preconceived narrative of efficacy. If public and elected officials can’t comment, then stop commenting altogether-don’t comment in part and withhold in part. Be impartial and accurate rather than biased and speculative.
Finally, we are inviting anyone who is unwilling or afraid to speak directly to law enforcement and has information or an account of what happened or anything germane to the shooting is invited to come to the Urban League to make a statement. We have arranged for attorneys and paralegals to take your statement and prepare an affidavit that we can submit to law enforcement. They will be available between 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. November 19, and throughout the day Friday and Monday. Please contact our office at 612- 302-3100 to schedule a time to come in.