Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday that video footage from an ambulance at the scene where an unarmed black man was fatally shot by police appeared to be inconclusive.
“I’ve seen the tape,” Dayton said. “It doesn’t show anything that would be any confirmation of one point of view or another.”
The footage was taken from one of the cameras at the scene where 24-year-old Jamar Clark was shot during a scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers Nov. 15, sparking more than a week of protests. An autopsy shows he died of a gunshot to the head.
Some witnesses have said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, which police deny. A police union official said Clark was trying to grab an officer’s gun when he was shot.
Describing the footage at a news conference Monday, Dayton said, “It’s basically the camera’s looking out the back door of the ambulance for the purpose of photographing what would occur in the back of the ambulance, and there’s just a very brief fragment where Mr. Clark and one of the officers encounter each other and then they disappear from sight and there’s no other view of them until one of the officers — and there’s no audio — it appears after the shot was fired one of the officers comes back into the point of view.”
In a Facebook post, Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said Dayton’s comments make clear that investigators must release the footage — something protesters have been demanding.
“The Governor’s statement merely reinforces the public’s need to see the videotape for themselves and to draw their own conclusions, rather than relying upon the perspective of one government official who is not a trained expert in this field,” she wrote.
She continued: “The Governor’s statement also disturbingly calls into question the veracity of statements from witnesses who have already cooperated with state and federal authorities in presenting their versions of what happened and may deter other witnesses from coming forward out of fear of not having their stories be believed. This is unacceptable and weakens the potential for a fair, transparent, and balanced investigation.”
Dayton, who met with some members of Clark’s family over the weekend, described to them what he saw in the footage.
“I told them, I give you my oath on my word of honor there’s nothing in there that’s going to provide any confirmation that officers acted as some alleged they did,” he said.
Dayton declined to elaborate on the nature of Clark’s encounter with officers, and would not go into more detail as to what he saw on the tape. He has not seen other footage.
Authorities with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), one of the agencies investigating the shooting, have said they have several videos but none show the event in its entirety.
They have declined to release the tapes, saying the videos could prejudice witnesses — which Dayton said he conveyed to Clark’s family.
Dayton said he asked to see the tape and watched it Friday. He defended his decision to view it because as governor, the BCA answers to him. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating.
“It’s my responsibility, knowing this is a very, very volatile situation,” Dayton said, adding that he does not believe his viewing of the footage could jeopardize the investigation. “We’re teetering on the brink of a very, very volatile situation and I want to know everything I possibly can, or need to know, to make the best informed decision I possibly can to protect public safety, and that’s what I did.”
Clark’s family has said his funeral will be held at noon Wednesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, 1201 W. Broadway Av. N., with visitation beginning at 10 a.m.
Dayton said he does not yet know whether he will attend Clark’s funeral but said he will meet with Black Lives Matter leaders in December.
As protesters continue to camp outside the Fourth Precinct Police station in north Minneapolis, Dayton lauded their restraint.
“Hopefully the very tense situation has been de-escalated and I thank those who, the credit belongs to the people who were directly involved in that decision to keep it as peaceful as it was,” he said.
In the statement posted Monday on Facebook, Levy-Pounds said the NAACP supports the “peaceful occupation” outside the precinct.
The NAACP is also planning a community concert at 5 p.m. Tuesday outside of the Fourth Precinct police station.
Abby Simons • 651-925-5043