MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors said on Wednesday they would not bring charges against two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of a 24-year-old black man, due to insufficient evidence.
After a months-long investigation, officials said they could not establish that the shooting was unreasonable and that two white officers acted wilfully to deprive the shooting victim, Jamar Clark, of his constitutional rights, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said at a news conference.
Civil rights leaders immediately decried the decision, which follows a previous conclusion by local prosecutors not to bring charges against the officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze.
“There are no winners here, and there is no victory for anyone. A young man has died and it is a tragedy,” Luger said.
“We are unable to bring federal criminal civil rights charges in this matter,” he said.
The fatal shooting came at a time of fierce national debate over the use of excessive force by police, especially against black men.
“Our government leaders have clearly let us down,” Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told reporters after the announcement.
Levy-Pounds and a dozen other civil rights leaders, including members of the Black Lives Matter movement that has led protests against police shootings, appeared at a news conference and said they would campaign to push local officials out of office due to their response to Clark’s shooting.
Some witnesses had said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot in the head, which they said showed the officers had acted unreasonably. But Luger said there was contradictory evidence that tended to show Clark was not handcuffed.
He said the death of Clark had raised serious questions that must be addressed through a dialog in law enforcement regarding the use of force in Minnesota. He said that would prevent future tragedies.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis division conducted the investigation into Clark’s death at the request of the Minneapolis mayor.
Authorities have said Clark was a suspect in an assault and had an altercation with the officers before one of them shot him.
Clark’s death in November sparked protests in Minneapolis and hundreds marched again in March when the prosecutor decided not to bring charges.
The officers involved in the shooting are on desk duty and are still awaiting an internal investigation by the police department.
Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Alan Crosby